Race Track / 13 April 2014


FIA WTCC ? Round 1 ? Marrakech ? Moulay El Hassan Circuit ? 12 ? 13 April

The first event in the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship proved a tough baptism for the three Honda Civics which started from rows 4 and 5 on the grid with Tiago Monteiro making a great start to be fifth into the first corner with Norbert Michelisz 7th and Mehdi Bennani 8th on the first lap. Tiago was passed on lap 5 and the Hondas were now running in 6th, 7th and 8th as the race continued with the Portuguese star managing to pull out a small advantage over Michelisz and Bennani who was showing ever increasing confidence in his new Civic. On lap 13 Michelisz ran wide with a steering problem and allowed Bennani up to 7th whilst the Zengo Motorsport Civic dropped to 9th at the finish.

“I had to use all my strength to turn the steering wheel in the last two laps,” gasped Norbi after climbing out of his car. “I really must do more weight training for sure!”

The team decided that the extremely short repair time between the two races would not allow the car to be repaired fully in time and team owner Zoltan Zengo  said, “We are playing safe as Marrakesh is such a risky circuit we do not want to take any chances and get the car ready for the French races next weekend.”

The WTCC race format sees Race 2 with the reverse grid which put Mehdi Bennani on the front row much to the noisy delight of his many local fans. Monteiro was the sole starter on row 2 following Michelisz withdrawal and both drivers were planning to attack from the start. The front rows were only metres into the race when the poleman collided with the left side wall before spinning wildly back across the track as both Bennani and Monteiro squeezed past on the right. With the track covered in wreckage the red flag was shown to stop the race.

Following the restart behind the safety car, Mehdi held the lead for two laps before being overhauled by the eventual winner Sebastian Loeb. Bennani had to take a drive-through penalty for a track infringement which dropped him down the field whilst Monteiro was now battling to retain 4th position. The final excitement of the weekend came as the cars entered the final three laps with Bennani moving back into contention with some superb overtaking moves. By lap 14 he was in the tussle with Monteiro and Chilton when Tiago’s car suffered a badly cut tyre which may have been caused when the front splitter was knocked down by the menacing kerbs. The resulting vibration forced Tiago to slow allowing Mehdi into 4th for the final lap but he was beaten to the line by Chilton. However the popular Moroccan richly deserved his heroes welcome at the end of the race.

Tiago Monteiro was certain that there were many positives to take from this difficult weekend.

“We have collected loads of data that can now help us improve the performance. Our set up improved every time we went on track, this has been a big test weekend and we learned a lot. I’m sure we will be faster next weekend at Le Castellet.”

Managing Director of JAS Motorsport, Alessandro Mariani is positive with this weekend’s work.

“Our priority was to find some set-up solutions and we achieved this although it would have been even better to have Gabriele also running as a second data source but it was impossible here to repair his car after the Friday accident. I am confident about the potential of the Civic but having these races so close together at this part of the season does not help us. And a street circuit is not the ideal place to be running for testing purposes. I was very impressed with Bennani’s drive. I think he has good results to come this year.”

“We had good engine reliability this weekend and I feel our power is not less than the competition. We are losing time out of the corners presently and this needs improvement from both the engine and chassis,” says Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC engine development from Honda R & D.

The Honda Race to Race challenge to complete the replacement Civic for Gabriele Tarquini in time for next weekend’s event at Le Castellet in the South of France is catching the imagination of social media fans all over the world. The team has effectively just 72 hours to assemble a complete new Honda Civic WTCC ready for the races.

Race 1 (*) : 1. Lopez, Citroën  C-Elysée WTCC, 14 laps, 24.40.950; 2. Loeb, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 24.41.663; 3. Muller, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 24.42.557; 4. Chilton, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 24.49.172; 5. Tiago Monteiro, Honda Civic WTCC, 25.01.445; 6. Borkovic, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 25.02.799 ; 7. Mehdi Bennani, Honda Civic WTCC, 25.05.061; 8. Valente, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 25.10.903 ;  9. Norbert Michelisz, Honda Civic WTCC, 25.25.533 ; etc.

Race 2 (*) : 1. Loeb, Citroën  C-Elysée WTCC, 16 laps, 47.5.589; 2. Lopez, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 47.54.910; 3. Valente, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 47.58.187; 4. Chilton, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 48.08.894; 5.Kozlovskiy, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 48.10.346 ; 6. Morbidelli, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 48.13.706 ; 8. Engstler, BMW E90 320 TC, 48.29.546 ; 9. Filippi,SEAT Leon WTCC, 48.39.200 ; 10. Di Sabatino, BMW E90 320 TC, 48.41.142 ;. 10. Tiago Monteiro, Honda Civic WTCC, 44.49.988

(*) Provisional results

Driver’s Championship : 1. José Maria Lopez (ARG) 48 ; 2. Sébastien Loeb (FR) 47 ; 3. Tom Chilton (GB) 27 ; 4. Hugo Valente (FR) 19 ; 5. Yvan Muller (FR) 17 ; 6. Mehdi Bennani (MAR) 16 ; 7. Tiago Monteiro (PRT) 10 ; 8. Dusan Borkovic (SRB) 9 ; 9. Mikhael Kozlovskiy (RUS) 8 ; 10. Gianni Morbidelli (I) 6 ; 11. Franz Engstler (D) 4 ; 12. Norbert Michelisz (HUN) 2 ; etc.

Manufacturer’s Championship : 1. Citroën 95 ; 2. Honda 57 ; 3. LADA 31

Mehdi Bennani excluded from Race 2

The Stewards of the Meeting excluded car nr.25 of Mehdi Bennani from the result of Race 2, after the car was underweight during the technic