Citroën’s two victories in today’s opening rounds of the 2014 World Touring Car Championship held at the Marrakech street circuit in Morocco might not have come totally unexpected, but the names of the winners might.
In the first race, the Citroën trio was led home by Argentine José María López, with nine-time World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb in second and four-time World Touring Car champion Yvan Muller in third. The three Citroën drivers made a clean getaway as soon as the lights went out and controlled the race from the front. The race quickly settled into a groove as none of the drivers was willing to risk a potentially costly accident with the next event in France just a few days away. Chevrolet drivers Tom Chilton and series newcomer Dušan Borković completed the top-five, with Tiago Monteiro bringing the first Honda home in sixth and James Thompson doing the same for LADA in tenth.
While the first race was remarkably devoid of accidents, the inevitable crash happened at the start of the second race, when pole sitter Tom Coronel was pushed into the wall by fellow front-line starter Mehdi Bennani. Coronel’s stricken car then took out Yvan Muller’s Citroën and the race had to be suspended. After the restart, Loeb managed to take the lead jumping Monteiro and Bennani in a short sequence. The French ace didn’t look back and held the lead until the finish, thus scoring his first WTCC win. Race 1 winner López worked his way up from fifth to second and took the provisional lead in the standings, only one point ahead of Loeb. Hugo Valente scored Chevrolet’s first podium finish of the year while Bennani still salvaged fifth, having been pipped for fourth by Tom Chilton by just 26/1000ths of a second. LADA’s Mikhail Kozlovskiy scored his first points in the championship, while German veteran Franz Engstler used his experience to twice win the TC2T category for old-generation cars.
Loeb and López also shared the laurels in the new Yokohama Performer, setting the fastest laps in Race 1 and 2 respectively.
The championship will resume next week at Le Castellet’s Circuit Paul Ricard, on April 20 for rounds 3 and 4.
RACE 1 – LÓPEZ LEADS A CITROËN TRIO
José María López took a triumphal victory for the Citroën Total WTCC team.
The Argentine crossed the line first ahead of team-mates Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller. The three C-Elisée cars led from lights to flag, creating a huge gap between them and the rest of the field.
Tom Chilton finished fourth, but only eight seconds behind; the Briton was followed by Borković, Monteiro and local hero Bennani.
Franz Engstler dominated the TC2T class from his team-mate Di Sabatino.
RACE 2 – LOEB TAKES MAIDEN WTCC WIN
Sébastian Loeb took his maiden win in the WTCC in what was only his second start in this championship. He beat team-mate and Race 1 winner José María López. López who is the first leader of the championship, thanks to the pole position points.
The race was marked by an accident at the start between polesetter Tom Coronel and local hero Mehdi Bennani. In the melee, the Citroën of Yvan Muller was also an innocent victim.
At the restart, the two C-Elysée cars took control of the proceedings, cruising to a 1-2 finishing. Hugo Valente took a brilliant first podium with the Campos Racing Chevrolet, ahead of Tom Chilton and Bennani, who completed a brilliant recover after paying a drive-through penalty. Mikhail Kozlovskiy, who scored a remarkable sixth for LADA and also his first WTCC points.
Franz Engstler encored his victory in the TC2T class, ahead of John Filippi who beat Pasquale Di Sabatino for second.
BENNANI EXCLUDED FROM RACE 2
The Stewards of the Meeting excluded Mehdi Bennani from today’s Race 2 after his car was found underweight during the technical checks.
Bennani had finished the race in fifth position, after serving a drive-through penalty for the collision with Tom Coronel at the start.
His exclusion promoted Mikhail Koslovskiy to fifth and Gianni Morbidelli to sixth. The points for the positions from seventh to tenth were awarded to Engstler, Filippi, Di Sabatino and Monteiro.