The second season of the FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO kicks off this weekend, with the season-opening Race of Morocco opening the championship on the streets of Marrakech.
|Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan|
|Location||Marrakech, Morocco||Circuit Length||2.971 km / 1.846 mi|
|Opened||2009||First WTCR Event||2018|
|Direction||Anticlockwise||Race Lap Record||1:24.316 – Gabriele Tarquini (2018)|
Transformed from street circuit to semi-permanent race track for 2016, the Circuit Moulay El Hassan is located in the heart of Marrakech’s bustling hotel district.
Built to FIA Grade II standards, the layout is the work of Hermann Tilke’s renowned architecture agency and offers impressive views of the Atlas Mountains and Marrakech city wall.
The original 4.545-kilometre configuration was a flat oval layout punctuated by high-speed chicanes. The FIA World Touring Car Cup visited between 2009-10 and 2012-15, although many of its races proved to be fairly processional affairs or frequented by Safety Car interruptions when someone invariably came to grief against the barriers.
By 2016 the circuit design had undergone a major overhaul under Tilke’s oversight, with its narrow and twisting 2.971-kilometre layout providing a tough technical challenge and limited overtaking opportunities. The circuit is torture on brakes, with last year’s event prompting a number of retirements – particularly among the Audi runners – as the drivers found the middle pedal going to the floor.
|2019 FIA WTCR / Oscaro Race of Morocco – Provisional Schedule|
|Event Dates||05-07 April 2019||Free Practice 1||Sat 09:00-09:45|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 11:00-11:30||Race 1 Qualifying||Sat 13:00-13:40|
|Race 1 (18 laps)||Sat 16:50-17:20||Race 2 & 3 Qualifying (Q1)
|Race 2 & 3 Qualifying (Q2)||Sun 11:35-11:50||Race 2 & 3 Qualifying (Q3)||Sun 12:00-12:15|
|Race 2 (18 laps)||Sun 16:45-17:15||Race 3 (21 laps)||Sun 18:15-18:50|
Session times quoted in Central European Time (UTC/GMT + 01:00)
Rewind to 2018
The WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Car Cup presented by OSCARO got off to an electrifying start on the streets of Marrakech (7-8 April) with Gabriele Tarquini scoring a victory double.
Driving a BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR, the Italian converted his DHL Pole Position into Race 3 victory ahead of fellow world champions Yvan Muller and Thed Björk, having also triumphed in Race 1. Four-time World Touring Car title winner Muller qualified alongside Tarquini but made a relatively slow start and moved left to block Norbert Michelisz’s BRC entry. That allowed Björk to jump both for second into Turn 1. But the Swede lost the spot when he accidentally knocked the power switch, miraculously losing just one spot to Muller.
Earlier, the reverse-grid Race 2 was won by Jean-Karl Vernay in his Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS 3 LMS. The Frenchman headed local hero Mehdi Bennani, who claimed a popular podium in his Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI. Pepe Oriola took third having lined up on pole. Fourth for ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda driver Yann Ehrlacher and fifth for Björk meant five different car brands filled the top five places.
The Marrakech Form Guide
Season two of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO is go in Morocco next week. With new cars, a new point-scoring system, plus one of the best driver line-ups in international touring car history are just some of what’s in store in 2019 when one of motorsport’s big success stories of recent years shifts up another gear.
It all starts at the Circuit Moulay El Hassan in Marrakech where the 26-car field will be unleashed for three action-packed races on a semi-permanent track in the North African city, broadcast live around the world.
The first event of a 10-weekend global tour culminating in a super-finale in Malaysia, the Marrakech Grand Prix celebrates its tenth anniversary with local fans out in force to cheer home hero Mehdi Bennani.
It’s a cliché to say it’s impossible to say who’s going to win the championship, but given how close the 2018 season was and with such depth of talent on this year’s grid, this genuinely is the case. Bring on Season 2019!
Images via FIA WTCR Media