Esteban Guerrieri will start the opening race of the 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup season from pole position. The Argentine driver posted the fastest lap around the 2.9-kilometre Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan street circuit in Marrakech in his Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R.
The 40-minute qualifying session was an extremely competitive affair with the entire 26-car field covered by less than 1.8 seconds on the stopwatch – the top half of the grid was within half a second of Guerrieri’s pole time.
His session-topping time of 1:24.773 came midway through the 40-minute sessionand ultimately proved unbeatable. As track temperatures climbed during the session, so the grip levels fell away.
Guerrieri’s nearest challenger came from the new Lynk & Co 03 TCR challenger, with the Chinese car maker seeing all four of its customer cars qualifying inside the top ten. Last year’s championship runner-up Yvan Muller led the charge for the four-car Cyan Racing stable by qualifying second-fastest ahead of teammate Thed Björk, with series debutante Andy Priaulx fifth-fastest and Yann Ehrlacher ninth.
Muller, however, is likely to be kicked to the back of the grid as he almost certainly will need to have an engine change before the race. The Frenchman had claimed provisional pole only to clobber the Turn 4 kerb and split an oil line, leaving him stuck in the pits for the remainder of the session and unable to challenge Guerrieri’s subsequently better effort.
Guerrieri’s countryman and teammate Néstor Girolami added to Münnich Motorsport’s joy with the fourth-fastest time in his Honda. The top-ten featured the third of the grid’s four Hondas, with series returnee Tiago Monteiro putting in a great effort to claim eighth on the timesheets in his KCMG entry.
Defending WTCR champion Gabriele Tarquini was the sole Hyundai runner inside the first five rows of the grid, qualifying sixth-fastest. The Italian complained of engine problems with his BRC Racing entry during the session. His fellow i30 N runners Norbert Michelisz, Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus qualified in twelfth, thirteenth and seventeenth.
A winner on this circuit last year, Jean-Karl Vernay managed the seventh-fastest time in his WRT Audi RS3 LMS. Teammate Gordon Shedden had a torrid session and was just 23rd-fastest.
WTCR newcomer Daniel Haglöf completed the top ten in his PWR Racing Cupra.
Punctures proved costly for the likes of SLR VW Motorsport’s Rob Huff (P16), Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo’s Ma Qing Hua (P22) and Comtoyou Team Audi Sport’s Frédéric Vervisch (P24).
The 18-lap opening race of the WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco will start at 16:50 local time (GMT +1).
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Morocco – Race 1 Qualifying Results|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||1:24.773|
|2.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||1:25.012||+ 0.239|
|3.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||1:25.049||+ 0.276|
|4.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||1:25.109||+ 0.336|
|5.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||1:25.138||+ 0.365|
|6.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||1:25.174||+ 0.401|
|7.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||1:25.177||+ 0.404|
|8.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||1:25.202||+ 0.429|
|9.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||1:25.221||+ 0.448|
|10.||Daniel Haglöf||PWR Racing||1:25.227||+ 0.454|
|11.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||1:25.234||+ 0.461|
|12.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||1:25.235||+ 0.462|
|13.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||1:25.246||+ 0.473|
|14.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||1:25.454||+ 0.681|
|15.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||1:25.504||+ 0.731|
|16.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||1:25.534||+ 0.761|
|17.||Augusto Farfus||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||1:25.539||+ 0.766|
|18.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||1:25.551||+ 0.778|
|19.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||1:25.589||+ 0.816|
|20.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||1:25.685||+ 0.912|
|21.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||1:25.690||+ 0.917|
|22.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||1:25.822||+ 1.049|
|23.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||1:25.918||+ 1.145|
|24.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||1:26.232||+ 1.459|
|25.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||1:26.510||+ 1.737|
|26.||Attila Tassi||KCMG||1:26.522||+ 1.749|
- The fastest five qualifiers and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
- Yvan Muller – who provisionally qualified 2nd-fastest – will start Race 1 from the back of the grid for an engine change.
Images via FIA WTCR Media