Veteran driver Tom Coronel has hit out at the driving standards of his fellow racers after being eliminated in both races in the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s visit to Morocco last weekend.
The Dutch driver failed to complete a lap in either race on the Marrakech street circuit. He was swiped by ROAL Motorsport teammate Tom Chilton in Race 1, breaking the right front suspension on his RML Chevrolet Cruze TC1. Chilton was subsequently awarded a 30-second post-race time penalty, demoting him from a tenth-placed finish.
“This is not funny anymore,” a dejected Coronel said, reflecting on his weekend.
“I am a positive person and I know that something can always happen during a race, but being punted off twice without being able to do anything about it is really disappointing.”
“Chilton outbraked himself completely and went straight into the chicane and hit me, I cannot be positive about that one I’m afraid. He makes a mistake, I’m out,” Coronel fumed after his Race 1 smash.
“It was a complete mistake by myself,” Chilton added in reply. “I was four car lengths back and I braked two car lengths earlier than usual, but from the very initial bite on the brakes I locked up, and once I’d locked up that was it, it wasn’t going to stop, and I’m really sorry for Tom.”
Coronel’s mechanics managed to repair the damage so he could take a front-row start in the reversed-grid Race 2, but he was then the innocent victim of another accident, this time being tipped into contact with Tiago Monteiro’s Honda by Zengő Honda driver Norbert Michelisz.
“Michelisz just couldn’t stop the car and hit me. He didn’t hit me once, he kept pushing and that’s why I went sideways. (The damage is) really bad again,” he added, following his clash with the Hungarian.
“Michelisz just said he couldn’t stop the car, but I don’t care. They should be held responsible, it’s nice to say sorry, but they are race car drivers and they should be in control of fast cars, and they’re not in control of fast cars.
“For me, it is more ‘Marracrash’ than Marrakech. Let’s hope that the damage can be repaired in time.”
Michelisz was also slapped with a 30-second time penalty – dropping him from fifth to eleventh in the final classification – but the outcome doesn’t take away from the fact that Coronel now faces a race against time to have his battered car repaired so he can take part in a WTCC test at the Nürburgring Nordschleife next week in readiness for the series’ inaugural visit to the German circuit the following month.
Worryingly, the situation is a repeat of the year before at Marrakech, where Coronel’s Chevrolet was written off after he was tipped into the barriers just seconds after the start of Race 2. The damage was so bad that it forced it out of competing at the following round at the Paul Ricard circuit, losing him further ground as he spent the next few championship rounds trying to fine-tune a set-up in his rebuilt machine.
Coronel perhaps has a point about driving standards, as Chilton and Michelisz were not the only drivers to be summoned to the FIA Stewards for causing accidents.
The Chilton-Coronel tangle aside, Race 1 was a fairly pedestrian affair as the field worked to avoid damage in readiness for Race 2, which followed shortly after.
“They should be held responsible, it’s nice to say sorry, but they are race car drivers and they should be in control of fast cars, and they’re not in control of fast cars.” – Tom Coronel
The second 14-lap hit-out proved to be a rowdier race, with one of the bigger dramas being two separate collisions between local driver Mehdi Bennani and Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente.
Both were given 30-second penalties by the stewards in respect of two incidents which took place, dropping them to twelfth and ninth in the final order.
The pair first came together on Lap 7 at Turn 4 while disputing fourth place; Bennani’s Citroën overtook Valente’s Chevrolet on approach to the chicane, only for the Moroccan to move across on the Frenchman under braking. With no way to avoid the contact, Valente tipped Bennani into a spin, costing the local racer time while he recovered.
“First he’s going 10km/h faster than everybody in the straights and then he brakes 10 meters later and then he directs his car towards me; I can’t disappear so we touched and he went sideways,” Valente said of the pair’s first collision.
Bennani put in a charge to close back up to Valente, and on the penultimate lap the pair tangled again at the same corner when Bennani made a dive-bomb move up the inside. Valente didn’t see him coming and turned straight across to the apex or the corner, leading to contact once again.
“In the last five laps I was just trying to get home as we had so much brake fading, but he came back like crazy, I think he wanted to prove a point and just hit me a second time. Even if we hadn’t touched, he’d never have made it through the corner…he’s just impatient and needs to have more composure. When I was in front of [José María] López, I was closing the door each corner, but he just waited for me to make one little mistake and he passed.”
Bennani, predictably, saw things differently.
“I was trying to overtake very clean, but it’s very easy when you are going down the inside (for the other car) to touch your rear tyres,” he retorted.
“After the first contact I was then about eight seconds behind him but with two laps to go I was trying to overtake him but another time but he did the same manouevre.”
Coronel and Chilton weren’t the only teammates to score an ‘own goal’ in Morocco; Race 2 saw two of the three LADAs come to grief on the opening lap when Mikhail Kozlovskiy slammed his brand new Vesta WTCC into the back of teammate Rob Huff at the hairpin thanks to an apparent brake failure.
The officials saw things differently and Kozlovskiy a 30-second penalty, a nominal punishment given the Russian youngster was out on the spot, along with his World Championship-winning teammate.
“The pedal was really strange with the response as it was sometimes going all the way down, while sometimes it was normal so I never knew what to expect,” Kozlovskiy said.
Huff was pragmatic about the incident, and took some comfort from he and teammate James Thompson scoring the team’s first points’ finishes with its news cars; the Englishman finished Race 1 in tenth place, while Thompson was promoted to seventh in Race 2 thanks to penalties for Michelisz, Bennani and Valente.
“We had a lot of problems this weekend with the power steering, so that’s the first thing to do. Well, actually the first thing to do is to build the test car for me as this car is destroyed,” Huff shrugged.
“The rear and the roll cage is done, so we need to make the spare car for me for the Tuesday 28th test at the Nürburgring.
“It’s a shame, but on the whole, without any power steering and the problems we’ve had, we’ve had a good weekend, James [Thompson] and I have both scored points, so things are starting to come together a bit.”
Images via FIA WTCC Media