Marrakesh WTCR: Guerrieri on pole for opener

Honda driver Esteban Guerrieri claimed pole position for the World Touring Car Cup season opener at Marrakesh after Yvan Muller suffered an oil leak.

Marrakesh WTCR: Guerrieri on pole for opener
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Guerrieri, who finished third overall in the drivers' standings last season, dragged his Munnich Motorsport-run Civic Type R to a fastest time of 1m24.773s to beat Muller's early benchmark by 0.239 seconds.

That effort was around a tenth slower than the time with which Thed Bjork claimed pole for last year's season opener at the Moulay El Hassan street circuit, and marks the Argentinian's first qualifying pole position since the series adopted TCR regulations.

Muller might well have challenged him for top spot, but was forced to sit out the second half of the session after an error.

The four-time World Touring Car champion had led by a couple of tenths in the early part of the 40-minute session, but then struck the kerb in the second part of the Turn 4/5 chicane.

His Cyan Racing team discovered an oil leak on his return to the pits, and Muller was not able to return to the track in the team's new Lynk & Co 03.

Speaking after the session, Muller said his engine "was not in the best condition", and Cyan decided prior to the race to change the engine in his car.

Muller will therefore start the race from the back of the 26-car grid, moving everyone else up one position, but he will keep the four points he earned by qualifying second.

The Frenchman's stablemate Thed Bjork qualified third in his Lynk & Co 03, 0.037s slower than Muller, while Nestor Girolami made it two Munnich Hondas in the top four.

A late improvement from Girolami bumped the third Lynk & Co of World Touring Car returnee Andy Priaulx back a place, but the three-time world champion nevertheless qualified a strong fifth - 0.365s off the pace.

Reigning champion Gabriele Tarquini complained of engine problems in the early stages of the session but qualified best of the BRC Hyundais, dragging his i30 N to sixth place.

Jean-Karl Vernay (WRT Audi) was one of a number of drivers to suffer a puncture in qualifying but set a time good enough for seventh, with Tiago Monteiro eighth in his KCMG Honda in his first qualifying session back in the series full-time.

Muller's nephew Yann Ehrlacher made it four Lynk & Cos in the top 10 in ninth, while series debutant Daniel Haglof turned in an excellent time to secure 10th in his PWR Cupra.

The lead Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce of Kevin Ceccon qualified 11th, ahead of Hyundai drivers Norbert Michelisz and Nicky Catsburg, while Volkswagens cars struggled during the session.

Rob Huff was the brand's lead representative in 16th, 0.761s off the pace, with team-mates Johan Kristoffersson - the double World Rallycross champion making his first WTCR qualifying appearance - and Mehdi Bennani 20th and 21st.

Benjamin Leuchter was 25th of the 26 runners in the fourth Sebastien Loeb Racing-run Volkswagen Golf GTI, ahead only of fellow debutant Attila Tassi.

Session results

Cla # Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 86 Argentina Esteban Guerrieri Honda 15 1'24.773  
2 100 France Yvan Muller Lynk & Co 6 1'25.012 0.239
3 11 Sweden Thed Björk Lynk & Co 16 1'25.049 0.276
4 29 Argentina Nestor Girolami Honda 14 1'25.109 0.336
5 111 Guernsey Andy Priaulx Lynk & Co 16 1'25.138 0.365
6 1 Italy Gabriele Tarquini Hyundai 15 1'25.174 0.401
7 69 France Jean-Karl Vernay Audi 16 1'25.177 0.404
8 18 Portugal Tiago Monteiro Honda 16 1'25.202 0.429
9 68 France Yann Ehrlacher Lynk & Co 14 1'25.221 0.448
10 37 Sweden Daniel Haglof Cupra 13 1'25.227 0.454
11 31 Italy Kevin Ceccon Alfa Romeo 16 1'25.234 0.461
12 5 Hungary Norbert Michelisz Hyundai 16 1'25.235 0.462
13 88 Netherlands Nick Catsburg Hyundai 14 1'25.246 0.473
14 96 Spain Mikel Azcona Cupra 20 1'25.454 0.681
15 21 France Aurelien Panis Cupra 14 1'25.504 0.731
16 12 United Kingdom Rob Huff Volkswagen 16 1'25.534 0.761
17 8 Brazil Augusto Farfus Hyundai 17 1'25.539 0.766
18 10 Netherlands Niels Langeveld Audi 10 1'25.551 0.778
19 50 Netherlands Tom Coronel Cupra 12 1'25.589 0.816
20 14 Sweden Johan Kristoffersson Volkswagen 15 1'25.685 0.912
21 25 Morocco Mehdi Bennani Volkswagen 14 1'25.690 0.917
22 55 China Ma Qing Hua Alfa Romeo 16 1'25.822 1.049
23 52 United Kingdom Gordon Shedden Audi 17 1'25.918 1.145
24 22 Belgium Frederic Vervisch Audi 10 1'26.232 1.459
25 33 Germany Benjamin Leuchter Volkswagen 17 1'26.510 1.737
26 9 Hungary Attila Tassi Honda 10 1'26.522 1.749
Marrakesh WTCR: Bjork tops practice for Lynk & Co
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