PREPARE FOR LIFT-OFF! ALL-ACTION FIA WORLD TOURING CAR CUP TO THRILL MARRAKECH
*New era begins with three street races in Morocco
*Packed grid of world champions and touring car heroes
*Innovative digital broadcast plan for Race 1
An exciting new era for international motorsport begins in North Africa next week (7-8 April) when the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO takes to the streets of Marrakech for an action-packed festival of flat-out racing.
With a rulebook designed to promote corner-by-corner overtaking, a full grid featuring four world champions and a host of national and international touring car title-winners, an abundance of young stars, three ex-Formula One drivers and seven customer racing brands, the stage is set for a thrilling spectacle as the WTCR begins with the AFRIQUIA-backed event.
In an intriguing twist, WTCR – the new name for the FIA World Touring Car Championship – gets three races per weekend, plus a second qualifying session. There’s also a ground-breaking award due to be announced shortly, an innovative live broadcast plan and, in OSCARO, the world’s leading online retailer of original automotive spare parts, WTCR promoter Eurosport Events welcomes its Series Presenting Partner.
All you need to know: Click here the event guide, timetable and other essential information.
Who’s in it to win it? Click here to find out more about the WTCR drivers.
They said what? Click here for quotes from selected WTCR driver Q&As.
WTCR explained? Click here to find out more.
For everything else… Go to the online WTCR Media Centre by clicking here.
THE CHALLENGE AHEAD
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) and a sprinkling of tight, wall-lined turns, there will be no time for WTCR drivers to take in the scenery when the venue opens the 2018 season.
WHO’S ON THE GRID?
World Touring Car champions: Thed Björk, Rob Huff, Yvan Muller, Gabriele Tarquini
WTCC Trophy winners: Mehdi Bennani, Tom Coronel, Norbert Michelisz
WTCC race winners: Yann Ehrlacher, Esteban Guerrieri, Tiago Monteiro, Gianni Morbidelli, Pepe Oriola
British Touring Car champions: Fabrizio Giovanardi, Gordon Shedden, James Thompson
TCR title winners: Aurélien Comte, Benjamin Lessennes, Jean-Karl Vernay
Young racing hopefuls: Denis Dupont, John Filippi, Mato Homola, Norbert Nagy, Aurélien Panis, Zsolt Szabó
International racers: Nathanaël Berthon, Frédéric Vervisch
FIVE TO WATCH
1 Mehdi Bennani: The Moroccan will carry the hopes of an expectant nation on his shoulders at his home event. And the Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR driver will be one of the favourites for victory following several impressive seasons in the WTCC.
2 Benjamin Lessennes: Tiago Monteiro’s temporary stand-in while the Portuguese recovers to full fitness following his testing crash, Lessennes will be the youngest driver on the grid aged 18.
3 John Filippi: Team OSCARO by Campos Racing’s Corsican has set the standard others must follow by topping the timesheets in official pre-season testing in Barcelona.
4 Jean-Karl Vernay: TCR International Series champion from 2017, Frenchman Vernay has yet to win the FIA title he craves. His bid starts at WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco.
5 Yvan Muller: On his return to action after a one-year absence, the most successful driver in WTCC history will combine racing with running his own YMR team.
WHAT THE WTCR DRIVERS HAVE BEEN SAYING THIS WEEK
Mehdi Bennani (Sébastien Loeb Racing): “The cars will be so close, the competition so high”
Thed Björk (YMR) “It’s going to be very competitive with many good drivers and more fighting”
Tom Coronel (Boutsen Ginion Racing) “It will be explosive with a lot of surprises. I like that”
John Filippi (Team OSCARO by Campos Racing) “It will be exciting with more competition”
Fabrizio Giovanardi (Team Mulsanne) “There will be some big names from my era as well as fresh blood to confront. I’m not here to make up numbers, so we will aim as high as possible”
Esteban Guerrieri (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport) “I’m extremely excited to be racing in the world’s fastest-growing touring car category”
Mato Homola (DG Sport Compétition) “The WTCR is absolutely the peak of touring car racing. I can’t believe that on the grid a guy from a small country like Slovakia has a place there”
Norbert Michelisz (BRC Racing Team) “With the new regulations and a packed grid featuring lots of champions, the first WTCR season promises to be really popular and competitive”
Tiago Monteiro (Boutsen Ginion Racing) “One of the best touring car championships ever”
Yvan Muller (YMR) “It’s going to be a great challenge both for the driver and the team”
Gordon Shedden (Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team) “It’s a proper competition, the level is going to be so high and one thing it won’t be is boring. Overtaking should be plentiful”
Gabriele Tarquini (BRC Racing Team) “We are returning to the golden era of touring car”
Jean-Karl Vernay (Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team) “The starting grid will be magic. It’s the best championship in the last 15 years, very impressive and a big challenge”
WEEKEND FORMAT EXPLAINED
In a major change to the previous WTCC race weekend format, each WTCR event will consist of three races – an increase from the previous two. One qualifying session and one race will take place on the opening day, with the second day more in keeping with the old WTCC timetable: namely a three-phase qualifying session and two races with the first race utilising a reverse grid.
Free Practice 1 (30 minutes), Free Practice 2 (30 minutes)
First Qualifying (30 minutes, 40 minutes at street circuits)
Second Qualifying Q1 (20 minutes, 30 minutes at street circuits)
Second Qualifying Q2 (10 minutes, 15 minutes at street circuits)
Second Qualifying Q3 (top-five shootout)
Race 2 (top 10 positions after Second Qualifying reversed)
Race 3 (grid as per combined order after Q3)
Points allocation (races only, Q3 top five awarded points on a 5-4-3-2-1 scale):
WTCR RACE OF MOROCCO IN NUMBERS
7: Drivers racing in Marrakech have won seven World Touring Car titles between them
18: Benjamin Lessennes will be 18 years, nine months and nine days when WTCR track activity begins on 7 April
11: Eleven different nationalities will be represented in the WTCR season opener
57: The number of scheduled racing laps in Marrakech is 57
28: Drivers will be permitted to use 28 Yokohama tyres at WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco as the first event of the season
1: Morocco is no stranger to hosting the starting point of a new touring car era. In 2014, Citroën driver and eventual WTCC champion José María López won the first event to count for TC1 regulations.
2: It’s 60 since Stirling Moss famously won the Moroccan Grand Prix in Casablanca, albeit a result that wasn’t enough to prevent his fellow Briton Mike Hawthorn from securing the 1958 title.
3: The first World Touring Car race in Morocco in 2009 was won by Rob Huff in a Chevrolet after he’d also topped qualifying. He was third in race two behind Yvan Muller and Nicola Larini.
4: Morocco’s Mehdi Bennani was also in action that day, bagging a brace of top-10 finishes. That was five years before he achieved a notable milestone as the first Arabic driver to win an FIA world championship motor race.
5: The official languages of Morocco are Berber and Arabic. French and, to a lesser extent, Spanish and English are also spoken in the country.
WHERE TO WATCH THE WTCR
In a significant move First Qualifying and Race 1 will be live on Facebook and Twitter in most countries, plus on OSCARO.com in Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and USA. Eurosport will broadcast live coverage of Second Qualifying, Race 2 and Race 3. Eurosport Player will add live coverage of First Qualifying and Race 1 to that mix. Live coverage will also be broadcast live on Fox Sports (Latin America), J SPORTS (Japan), M4 Sport (Hungary), OSN (Middle East and North Africa) and 2M in Morocco .