Tiago Monteiro has led home Honda teammate Norbert Michelisz in the main race of the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s season-opening round in Marrakech.
Having qualified fastest on Saturday before finishing in sixth place in Sunday’s opening race, the Portuguese driver has claimed an early lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Monteiro started well from pole position to lead the field, while Michelisz made a rapid getaway to leap from third on the grid into second place ahead of Volvo’s Néstor Girolami.
Girolami and his teammate Nick Catsburg looked to slot into third and fourth places, however the latter was nudged into the run-off at Turn 3 by Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani; the Moroccan managed to grab fourth place in the process.
The race order continued unchanged around this tough-to-pass circuit. There was a Safety Car period triggered after Zengõ Motorsport rookie Aurélien Panis broke his steering when he clobbered the kerbing at the Turn 5 chicane. The French youngster was the sole retiree from the race.
The race resumed on Lap 11, at which point the preceding race’s winner, Campos Racing’s Esteban Guerrieri, was handed a drive-through penalty for a pre-race parc fermé violation – his mechanics had worked on the car while it was in the pit lane’s fast lane before the race start. The Argentine driver had suffered a technical issue trying to make it from the pits to the starting grid, and was unable to do so before the pit lane had closed.
Monteiro and Michelisz steadily built a small cushion ahead of Girolami, who ran a solid race to finish in third place. Bennani finished fourth ahead of Catsburg, although the local driver would subsequently be hit with a post-race time penalty for his opening-lap contact with the Dutch driver that ultimately redressed the incident.
His two-second penalty dropped him behind teammate Tom Chilton in the adjusted classifications; Chilton managed to pass the third Volvo of Thed Björk when the Swede made a mistake on the final lap of the race.
Tom Coronel’s brakes held on better than in the opening race, with the ROAL Motorsport driver claiming eighth place in his Chevrolet RML Cruze. The veteran’s ultra-defensive driving caused plenty of frustration for Rob Huff, who was unable to progress further than ninth after starting from the back of the grid.
Ryo Michigami finished in tenth place in the third works Honda, claiming his first WTCC points’ finish.
The second round of the FIA WTCC season takes place at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on April 30th.
|2017 FIA WTCC Afriquia Race of Morocco – Main Race Final Classification (23 laps)|
|1.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||34:00.997||MF|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 0.751||MF|
|3.||Néstor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 2.120||MF|
|4.||Nick Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 3.702||MF|
|5.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 4.519||IND|
|6.||Mehdi Bennani*||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 4.847||IND|
|7.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 5.073||MF|
|8.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 6.363||IND|
|9.||Rob Huff||Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée||+ 7.658||IND|
|10.||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 12.197||MF|
|11.||John Filippi||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 20.402||IND|
|12.||Yann Ehrlacher||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 22.035||IND|
|13.||Esteban Guerrieri||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 22.308||IND|
|14.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 42.880||IND|
|DNF.||Aurélien Panis||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||Accident||IND|
* Post-Race Penalties:
- Mehdi Bennani – who was provisionally classified in fourth position – was awarded a 2-second post-race time penalty for making avoidable contact with Nick Catsburg on Lap 1 which caused the Volvo driver to lose two positions.
Image via FIA WTCC Media