Gabriele Tarquini led a Hyundai 1-2 finish in the inaugural race of the FIA World Touring Car Cup on the streets of Marrakech.

The Italian, winner of the 2009 FIA WTCC title, made a blinding getaway from the front row to jump polesitter Thed Björk on the short run to Turn 1.

Behind the leading duo, contact in the midfield triggered a number of incidents as the pack jostled for position.

Local driver Mehdi Bennani hit the right rear of Esteban Guerrieri’s Honda on the approach to the left-hander, punting the Münnich Motorsport driver into the asphalt run-off and costing the Argentine two places.

Behind them, Frédéric Vervisch carried too much speed into the corner turned the second Münnich Motorsport Honda of James Thompson into a spin, which caught out Vervisch’s Comtoyou Racing teammate Aurélien Panis, as well causing damage to Fabrizio Giovanardi’s Alfa Romeo, Tom Coronel’s Honda and Mat’o Homola’s Peugeot.

With his steering broken, Vervisch’s car was stranded at the corner exit, forcing the Safety Car to be deployed before the race was red-flagged on Lap 2.

Coronel and Giovanardi took the opportunity to have their damaged cars repaired in the pit lane during the stoppage, while Homola’s Peugeot had its battered front guard panels ripped off by his mechanics on the re-formed grid.

The race was restarted after an exploratory lap behind the Safety Car, with the erstwhile Tarquini showing all of his experience to catch Björk napping by bolting clear as the green flags were waved.

Almost instantly, the race was neutralised again when Tarquini’s BRC Racing teammate Norbert Michelisz – who had qualified second-fastest but dropped to the back of the grid after an engine change – stopped on track when his left-front wheel parted company with his Hyundai to continue the Hungarian’s wretched weekend to-date.

The race was neutralised for a further five laps until the Safety Car was called into the pits and once again Tarquini got an early jump on Björk at the restart.

The veteran’s advantage was short-lived, as Björk and the chasing pack led by the Sébastien Loeb Racing VW of Rob Huff quickly caught onto his tail.

Tarquini and Björk were able to ease away from Huff and wage their own scrap for the lead, but such are the difficulties of overtaking on the Marrakech street circuit that there were no overtaking moves for the race’s remaining laps.

Tarquini and Björk crossed the finish line less than a second apart, with Huff completing the podium a further two seconds adrift.

TCR International Series champion Jean-Karl Vernay finished fourth in his WRT Audi ahead of Bennani’s sister SLR VW Golf, although the Moroccan was subsequently hit with a 10-second post-race time penalty by the stewards for his Turn 1 hit on Guerrieri which dropped him to ninth place.

That promoted Vernay’s teammate Gordon Shedden into fifth ahead of Guerrieri and his teammate Yann Ehrlacher.

Having delivered a surprise performance in qualifying, Aurélien Comte held on to the coattails of the two Münnich Hondas and claimed a fine eighth in his DG Sport Peugeot.

John Filippi claimed the final points on offer in his Campos Racing Cupra, putting on a stern defence against the attacks of four-time WTCC title-winner Yvan Muller.

2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of Morocco – Race 1 Final Classification (20 laps)
Driver Team Laps Result Pts
1. Gabriele Tarquini it BRC Racing Team 20 48:58.707 27
2. Thed Björk MRacing – YMR 20 + 0.729 20
3. Rob Huff Sébastien Loeb Racing 20 + 2.823 17
4. Jean-Karl Vernay Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team 20 + 4.593 14
5. Gordon Shedden Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team 20 + 5.702 12
6. Esteban Guerrieri ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 20 + 10.136 10
7. Yann Ehrlacher ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 20 + 10.784 8
8. Aurélien Comte DG Sport Compétition 20 + 11.577 6
9. Mehdi Bennani Sébastien Loeb Racing 20 + 15.025 4
10. John Filippi Team OSCARO by Campos Racing 20 + 15.026 2
11. Yvan Muller MRacing – YMR 20 + 16.556
12. Nathanaël Berthon Comtoyou Racing 20 + 17.046
13. Denis Dupont be Comtoyou Racing 20 + 18.039
14. James Thompson ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 20 + 18.537
15. Benjamin Lessennes be Boutsen Ginion Racing 20 + 22.213
16. Norbert Nagy Zengõ Motorsport 20 + 25.096
17. Zsolt Dávid Szabó Zengõ Motorsport 20 + 53.666
18. Pepe Oriola es Team OSCARO by Campos Racing 19 + 1 lap
19. Fabrizio Giovanardi it Mulsanne SRL 19 + 1 lap
20. Gianni Morbidelli it Mulsanne SRL 17 + 3 laps
21. Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing 15 + 5 laps
Not Classified Team Laps Result
DNF. Mat’o Homola DG Sport Compétition 11 Steering
DNF. Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team 3 Wheel
DNF. Aurélien Panis Comtoyou Racing 1 Collision
DNF. Frédéric Vervisch be Audi Sport Team Comtoyou 0 Collision

* Post-Race Penalties:

  • Mehdi Bennani – who provisionally finished 5th – was handed a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision with Esteban Guerrieri on Lap 1.
  • Frédéric Vervisch will serve a 5-place grid penalty in Race 2 for causing the multi-car accident at Turn 1 on Lap 1.

Image via FIA WTCC Media

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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.