ROAL Motorsport privateer Tom Coronel has claimed an unexpected win in Sunday’s opening World Touring Car Championship race on the streets of Marrakech, narrowly finishing ahead of defending two-time champion José María López and his Citroën teammate Yvan Muller.

The Dutchman took full advantage of an opening-lap collision between front-row starters James Thompson and Hugo Valente to claim an effective lead of the race after Valente was handed a drive-through penalty. Coronel then hung on under intense pressure from López over the remainder of the race to win by 0.3 seconds.

The start of the race saw Thompson retain his pole position on the short run to Turn 1 ahead of Valente, Coronel and a fast-starting López.

Valente then went on to have his almost-predictable first-lap accident, this time punting a hapless Thompson into a race-ending spin at Turn 3 when he missed his braking point. Further down the order, there was also contact between Valente’s LADA teammate Nicky Catsburg and the Polestar Volvo of Thed Björk, caused by the latter blocking the former as they jostled for position.

Valente was rightly awarded a drive-through penalty for his troubles, which handed the lead to Coronel. His Chevrolet RML TC1 was hardly a match against the two Citroëns in a straight fight, but with overtaking proving as tough around Marrakech’s new track layout as its predecessor, he simply needed to keep an eye on his mirrors and thwart any potential attacks that came his way.

Behind the leading trio came the Hondas of Tiago Monteiro, Norbert Michelisz and Rob Huff, who barged his way past the sole remaining LADA of Gabriele Tarquini to move into sixth place.

Tarquini ran in seventh ahead of the Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroëns of Tom Chilton and local hero Mehdi Bennani, while Fredrik Ekblom occupied the the final points-paying position in tenth place.

Coronel was having to use his mirrors and all of his experience at nearly every corner, as time and time again López tried to attack the Chevrolet driver. On Lap 10, López tried a lunge at Turn 1, but ran wide in his attempts to outbrake Coronel and dropped back.

Within four laps he was back on Coronel’s tail, and despite further attacks – including a slight tap from the Argentine driver at the hairpin, Coronel held firm to claim a hugely popular win.

Muller held on to third place, defending against a fast-closing Monteiro in the final laps to lock out the podium – the pair was followed across the line by the sister Hondas of Michelisz and Huff.

Tarquini couldn’t keep up with Huff after the Englishman had forced his way ahead and finished a lonely seventh ahead of Chilton and Bennani, with Ekblom closing out the top ten ahead of Björk, who recovered from being spun down to last place on the opening lap thanks to his contact with Catsburg. The Swedish driver was later handed a post-race time penalty for his role in the incident with Catsburg.

López’s second-placed finish helped extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings to 17 points over Monteiro.

The event’s Main Race – run over 22 laps – will start at 17:15 local time.

2016 FIA WTCC Race of Morocco – Race 1 Final Classification (21 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result
1. Tom Coronel nl ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze 21 29:30.458
2. José María López Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée 21 + 0.319
3. Yvan Muller fr Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée 21 + 2.185
4. Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC 21 + 2.492
5. Norbert Michelisz Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC 21 + 3.770
6. Rob Huff uk Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC 21 + 4.443
7. Gabriele Tarquini it LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC 21 + 9.517
8. Tom Chilton uk Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée 21 + 11.403
9. Mehdi Bennani Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée 21 + 12.294
10. Fredrik Ekblom Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1 volvo 21 + 16.540
11. Grégoire Demoustier fr Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée 21 + 31.551
12. Ferenc Ficza Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC 21 + 44.659
13. Thed Björk^ Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1 volvo 21 + 52.376
Not Classified
DNF. John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze 13 Wheel
DNF. Hugo Valente LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC 12 Collision
DNF. Nick Catsburg nl LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC 7 Collision
DNF. James Thompson uk Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze 1 Collision

^ Post-Race Penalties:

  • Thed Björk (originally classified in 11th place) was awarded a 30-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Nick Catsburg.

Image via FIA WTCC

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.