WTCR Race 1 flash: Guerrieri wins first battle of 2019
Argentina’s Esteban Guerrieri scored the first win of the 2019 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO with victory from the DHL Pole Position in Race 1 at WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco in Marrakech.
The ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Honda Civic Type R TCR held off a challenge from fellow front row starter Thed Björk at Turn 1, then kept his lead throughout the 18-lap race, as just five seconds separated the top seven by the flag.
Björk’s Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR pulled alongside the Honda at Turn 1 and even nosed ahead, but on the outside line of the long left-hander he was forced to cede.
“It was a nice race and I controlled the pace,” said Guerrieri. “Thed made a good start and we were side by side, but he was a gentleman.
“I had some yellow lights flash up as an alarm, but after that everything was good. It’s great to start the season like this.”
Behind the top two, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Néstor Girolami couldn’t maintain his third place off the grid and lost out first to Cyan Performance Lynk & Co’s Andy Priaulx and then to Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport’s Jean-Karl Vernay.
Vernay then set after Priaulx and on lap four made his move on the Lynk & Co at Turn 1, nudging the three-time World Touring Car champion out of his third place. Priaulx dropped to sixth behind Girolami and BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse’s reigning champion Gabriele Tarquini in his Hyundai i30 N TCR.
But Vernay was later handed a five-second penalty for the move. The decision awarded Girolami a podium finish on his first WTCR / OSCARO start and ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport a team one-three. Tarquini was fourth and Priaulx fifth, while KCMG’s Tiago Monteiro grabbed a superb sixth place finish in his Honda Civic Type R TCR as his return from serious injury continues. Vernay was classified seventh following his penalty.
Cyan Performance Lynk & Co’s Yann Ehrlacher added more points for his new team in seventh, ahead of Team Mulsanne’s Kevin Ceccon in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR. BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team’s Nicky Catsburg completed the top 10 in his Hyundai.
With points awarded down to P15 this year, there was more to play for beyond the top 10. In P11 was BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse’s Norbert Michelisz, but only after he had been hit by newcomer PWR Racing’s Mikel Azcona, who was given a five-second penalty for the incident. SLR VW Motorsport’s Rob Huff claimed P12 in his Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, ahead of Comtoyou Team Audi Sport’s Frédéric Vervisch and BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team’s Augusto Farfus, with Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport’s Gordon Shedden claiming the final point for P15. Azcona was classified in P16.
Among those to hit trouble were Tom Coronel and local hero Mehdi Bennani, who clashed on the opening lap. As for Yvan Muller, who had qualified second only to be forced to the back after an engine change, he took the start from the pitlane and finished in P18.
WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco resumes on Sunday morning with the second qualifying session due to start at 11h00 local time.