Marrakesh WTCR: Tarquini leads Bjork in Race 1
Gabriele Tarquini won the first race of the new World Touring Car Cup era in Marrakech, resisting Thed Bjork to head a Hyundai 1-2.
Veteran Tarquini jumped into the lead from second at the start of the race and handled two safety car restarts expertly to build an advantage that allowed him to defend his lead thereafter.
Rob Huff completed the podium in his Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen.
Tarquini made a better getaway at the start and was able to duck underneath polesitter Bjork on the approach to the first corner as the field bunched together behind.
Mehdi Bennani got into Esteban Guerrieri at the start, before Frederic Vervisch triggered an incident at the first corner when he braked late and got into the back of James Thompson's Honda.
That contact put Thompson into a slide, before he was hit again by the Audi and half-spun, while Vervisch then also caught the Boutsen Ginion Honda of Tom Coronel as the Dutchman rejoined the circuit having run wide at the first corner.
Vervisch subsequently stopped his Comtoyou Audi on track, forcing the safety car to be deployed before a red flag was shown.
Tarquini leapt away on the full restart after a further lap behind the safety car, building a 1.338s lead over Bjork, but the field was quickly neutralised again when Tarquini's teammate Norbert Michelisz - who had qualified second but dropped to the back of the grid after an engine change - stopped on track when a wheel fell off his Hyundai.
A further five laps behind the safety car followed before the race finally resumed and, although Bjork once again allowed Tarquini to escape more than a second up the road, the pair - with Huff for company in third - bunched up over the following lap.
The leading Hyundais slowly edged away from Huff and entered a private battle for the lead, but Bjork struggled to get close enough to Tarquini to have a look at passing the Italian.
Tarquini remained ahead until the finish, eventually beating 2017 WTCC Bjork over the line by half a second, with Huff a further two seconds back.
TCR International Series champion Jean-Karl Vernay brought his Audi home in fourth ahead of Bennani, although the Moroccan was later slapped with a 10-second penalty for hitting Guerrieri at the start that dropped him to ninth.
That meant Gordon Shedden assumed fifth on his first World Touring Car start, with Guerrieri sixth, four seconds behind the Briton and with Munnich Motorsport teammate Yann Ehrlacher on his tail.
Aurelien Comte was eighth in the revised classification in his DG Sport Peugeot 308TCR ahead of Bennani, while John Filippi put up a stern defence to deny four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller the final point.
|4||Jean Karl Vernay||Audi||4.593|
|17||Zsolt David Szabo||Seat||53.666|
|18||Pepe Oriola||Seat||1 lap|
|19||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Alfa Romeo||1 lap|
|20||Gianni Morbidelli||Alfa Romeo||2 laps|
|Ret||Tom Coronel||Honda||5 laps|
|Ret||Mat'o Homola||Peugeot||8 laps|
|Ret||Norbert Michelisz||Hyundai||16 laps|
|Ret||Aurelien Panis||Audi||19 laps|
|Ret||Frederic Vervisch||Audi||20 laps|
Marrakesh WTCR: Bjork leads Hyundai 1-2-3 in first qualifying
Marrakesh WTCR: Tarquini leads all-Hyundai top four
The FIA World Touring Car Cup has announced Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as the hosts of its final two rounds of the 2022 season.
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