The maiden season of WTCR, the new FIA World Touring Car Cup, kicked off at Marrakech where Gabriele Tarquini and the Hyundai i30 N TCR proved to be the best pair of the pack.
The 56-year old Italian claimed two victories out of the three races and walked away from Morocco as the first leader in the standings, with 62 points, 11 ahead his Hyundai fellow driver Thed Björk and 21 more than Race 2 winner Jean-Karl Vernay.
Tarquini won the first race thanks to a great start that propelled him in front of his Hyundai colleague Björk who was sitting on pole. “After that it was just a matter of avoiding mistakes,” he summarized.
Starting Race 2 from ninth on the reverse grid, he was caught in the fights for the positions and eventually retired. “After a clash with another car, something broke in the suspension. So I decided to stop and give the team enough time to repair the car for Race 3.”
In fact, Race 3 was a kind of replay of Race 1. Tarquini sprinted from pole and kept Björk at bay until the penultimate lap, when the Swede made a mistake and handed second position to Yvan Muller for a Hyundai 1-2-3 finish.
On a track where overtaking is nearly impossible and incidents are frequent, the three races were mostly processional and often disrupted. However many of the competitors delivered entertaining battles. Among those who shone were the 2017 TCR International Series champion Vernay, who claimed a lights-to-flag victory in Race 2 with his Audi RS3 LMS; Yann Erlacher, who was chasing the leaders in both Sunday’s races and eventually finished twice fourth in his Honda Civic FK7; local hero Mehdi Bennani, who was the runner up to Vernay in Race 2 at the wheel of his Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR.
If the Hyundai emerged as the car to beat, it was clear that the BoP has succeeded in equalling the cars’ performance, as was shown by the Practice and Qualifying sessions in which twenty drivers were covered by the same second. For the time being, only the Alfa Romeo Giulietta appears to be struggling to stay on the pace, while the Peugeot 308 stands just half a step behind the Hyundai, Honda, Audi, CUPRA and Volkswagen cars.
The championship will resume at the Hungaroring on April 28/29.