The FIA World Touring Car Cup will not make its customary visit to the streets of Marrakech in 2020. The Race of Morocco, originally slated as the opening round on the calendar, has been cancelled in the wake of confirmation that the event’s main drawcard, local driver Mehdi Bennani, will not be competing in the series.
Bennani’s sidelining comes in the wake of the Sébastien Loeb Racing team’s decision to exit the championship due to Volkswagen withdrawing from the category.
“With Mehdi Bennani, Morocco’s top racing driver, unfortunately no longer set to race in WTCR, running the event without his participation and the support that he brought means it’s simply no longer possible to deliver a race weekend of the standing and quality we always achieved in Marrakech,” said François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCR promoter.
The series’ visit to Morocco has been something of a mainstay during the category’s World Touring Car Championship forebear since 2009. Originally run on a high-speed 4.6-kilometre semi-permanent street circuit layout, the venue underwent a major overhaul in 2016 where only half of the original track was retained on a reconfigured 3-kilometre purpose-built layout.
Slower and narrower than its predecessor, the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan also became a host venue for the FIA Formula E Championship.
As a venue for touring car racing, it has sadly – despite its impressive facilities and strong crowd attendance thanks to home hero Bennani – delivered little more than a succession of ‘follow the leader’ processions.
The event’s cancellation means that the Race of Hungary at the Hungaroring will now act as the championship’s opening event, with the round taking place on the last weekend of April.
Taking Morocco’s place on the calendar, albeit with a July timeslot, will be the high-speed Salzburgring in Austria. The 4.2-kilometre circuit has been an occasional WTCC host where its high-speed layout has proved punishing on tyres.
“Salzburgring is tailor-made for spectacular touring car racing and was always a WTCC season highlight. Its central location is ideal for the WTCR teams and we are excited to be renewing our partnership with the track and bringing WTCR racing to fans in that part of the world,” Ribeiro explained.
The Salzburgring’s inclusion as the last of the Europe-based events has also forced a two-week delay to the following event in China on account of the freight of cars and equipment being delayed.
|2020 FIA World Touring Car Cup Season Calendar|
|25-26 APR||Race of Hungary||Hungaroring, Budapest|
|22-23 MAY||Race of Germany||Nürburgring Nordschleife, Eifel|
|06-07 JUN||Race of Slovakia||Automotodróm Slovakia Ring, Orechová Potôn|
|20-21 JUN||Race of Portugal||Circuito Internacional de Vila Real, Vila Real|
|04-05 JUL||Race of Spain||Ciudad del Motor de Aragón, Alcañiz|
|25-26 JUL||Race of Austria||Salzburgring, Salzburg|
|05-06 SEP||Race of China||Ningbo International Circuit, Ningbo|
|17-18 OCT||Race of Korea||Inje Speedium, Inje County|
|21-22 NOV||Guia Race of Macau||Guia Circuit, Macau|
|12-13 DEC||Race of Malaysia||Sepang International Circuit, Sepang|
Image via FIA WTCR Media