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Race preview: #WTCR2019SUPERGRID all set for action in Marrakech

2019-04-19T01:17:16+02:00March 29th, 2019|2019, WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco 2019|

*Seven FIA world title winners part of packed Moroccan line-up
*Home hero Mehdi Bennani among victory contenders
*Marrakech Grand Prix street racing festival turns 10 in 2019
*Nine WTCR rookies and 12 WTCR race winners compete for glory

Season two of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO is go in Morocco next week. New cars, a new track, 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 from 5-7 April when the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID 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 from 13-15 December, the Marrakech Grand Prix celebrates its 10th anniversary with local fans out in force to cheer home hero Mehdi Bennani, a firm contender for victory on the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID.

Welcome to the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID
The #WTCR2019SUPERGRID celebrates the fact that seven WTCR / OSCARO drivers have won 14 FIA world titles plus 29 other major championships.

The list is headed by Gabriele Tarquini, who begins his world title defence in Marrakech carrying the number 1 on his BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse i30 N TCR. After missing out on the inaugural crown by three points in a seven-way title decider in Macau last November, four-time world champion Yvan Muller returns in a Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR developed by Geely Group Motorsport from China. Thed Björk partners Muller at Cyan as he bids for a second FIA world crown. Rob Huff (SLR VW Motorsport Golf GTI TCR), the 2012 FIA World Touring Car champion, is one of 12 of the 15 winners from 2018 returning in 2019. Augusto Farfus, Johan Kristoffersson and Andy Priaulx are all world title winners and all new to WTCR in 2019.

Esteban Guerrieri (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR) won the last race of 2018 in Macau, an event that also marked Frédéric Vervisch’s maiden success in the series. Like Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport pair Gordon Shedden and Jean-Karl Vernay, the Belgian Comtoyou Racing driver continues with Audi RS 3 LMS power this season.

Mixed in with the legends and experts are a group of exciting young guns aiming to challenge the established order. They include Mikel Azcona, who graduates to WTCR as the TCR Europe champion, and his close rival in recent seasons, Attila Tassi, who will be the youngest driver in action aged 19 years, nine months and 23 days when racing begins on 6 April.

Kevin Ceccon and Yann Ehrlacher are already winners in WTCR, but at 25 and 22 respectively, they remain among a list of exciting young talents that also includes Aurélien Panis, who switches to CUPRA power for 2019 with Comtoyou Team DHL CUPRA Racing.

Dutch showman Tom Coronel partners Panis, while Daniel Haglöf from Sweden will join Mikel Azcona in representing PWR Racing, the company he co-founded. Both will race CUPRA TCRs.

Nicky Catsburg (BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team) is new to WTCR having won in the World Touring Car Championship in the past. ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Néstor Girolami is also a WTCC race winner making his WTCR debut, while Benjamin Leuchter has a strong reputation from TCR Germany. Ma Qinghua brings WTCC-winning pedigree to WTCR in a Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta. He became the first Chinese driver to score WTCR points during a selected campaign of events in 2018.

Tiago Monteiro starts his first full season since serious head and neck injuries ended his hopes of winning the WTCC title in 2017. The Portuguese, a Formula One podium finisher in the past, joins Hong Kong-based KCMG to race a Honda Civic Type R TCR. Monteiro’s former team-mate, Norbert Michelisz, is another title contender for BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse.

All you need to know about WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco

THE CHALLENGE
Transformed from street circuit to semi-permanent race track for 2016, 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. But with a compact lap of 2.971 kilometres (down from 4.545km previously) and a sprinkling of tight, wall-lined turns, there is no time for WTCR drivers to take in the scenery, which was certainly the case when Marrakech hosted the inaugural WTCR / OSCARO event in April 2018.

THE ESSENTIALS
Rounds: 1-3
Venue: Circuit Moulay El Hassan, Marrakech
Date: 5-7 April
Location: Route de L’Ourika, Zone Agdal, Marrakech 40000, Morocco
Length: 2.971 kilometres
Time zone: GMT +1 hours
Race 1 distance: 18 laps (53.478 kilometres)
Race 2 distance: 18 laps (53.478 kilometres)
Race 3 distance: 21 laps (62.391 kilometres)
WTCR qualifying lap record: Gabriele Tarquini (Hyundai i30 N TCR) 1m24.316s (126.8kph), 08/04/18
WTCR race lap record: Gabriele Tarquini (Hyundai i30 N TCR) 1m26.150 (124.1kph), 08/04/18

Provisional key timings:
Saturday 6 April: Free Practice 1: 09h00-09h45; Free Practice 2: 11h00-11h30; First Qualifying: 13h00-13h40; Race 1 (18 laps): 16h50; Race 1 podium: 17h25
Sunday 7 April: Second Qualifying Q1: 11h00-11h30; Second Qualifying Q2: 11h35-11h50; Third Qualifying Q3: 12h00; Race 2 (18 laps): 16h45; Race 2 podium: 17h20; Race 3 (21 laps): 18h15; 18h55: Race 3 podium

WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco 2018 recap
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.

Results reminder
DHL Pole Position Race 1: Thed Björk (SWE) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 1 winner: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 1 fastest lap: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
DHL Pole Position Race 2: Pepe Oriola (ESP) CUPRA TCR
Race 2 winner: Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Audi RS 3 LMS
Race 2 fastest lap: Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Audi RS 3 LMS
DHL Pole Position Race 3: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 3 winner: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 3 fastest lap: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR