WTCC Marrakech: Rookie Guerrieri wins first race of 2017
|By Jack Cozens||Sunday, April 9th 2017, 16:25 GMT|
Esteban Guerrieri claimed a surprise victory in just his third World Touring Car Championship start, in the opening race of the 2017 season in Marrakech.
Guerrieri started second, but pushed initial leader Tom Coronel throughout the first half of the race before assuming the lead when Coronel ran wide at Turn 3.
The Campos Racing driver led from there to the finish in his Chevrolet Cruze on the first weekend of an expected five-round 2017 campaign, having made a one-off debut on home soil in Argentina last year.
Guerrieri retained his second place at the start behind the similar ROAL Motorsport car of Coronel, but the race was soon neutralised as a result of a startline crash.
Sebastien Loeb Racing driver John Filippi stalled on the line, leaving the RC Motorsport Lada Vesta of Yann Ehrlacher - who had been due to start the reversed-grid race from pole before a post-qualifying penalty - with nowhere to go but into the back of the Citroen C-Elysee.
Filippi was able to return to the pits unassisted, but with Ehrlacher's car stranded on the main straight the safety car was called, with cars instead diverted through the pitlane.
The lap before racing resumed, drivers were due to use the front straight, but Rob Huff pulled into the pits with a reported power steering problem, and the second half of the field followed him.
With that group unable to catch back up, it left Coronel leading a seven-car train on lap five, but he failed to make a break, and quickly came under pressure from Guerrieri.
With the Dutchman looking increasingly uncomfortable and struggling with his brakes, that pressure told as Coronel ran wide through the long left-hand Turn 3 and dropped behind the train, handing Guerrieri the lead.
Guerrieri was more comfortable in the lead than Coronel had been, and led Volvo driver Thed Bjork over the line by a margin of 0.654 seconds.
Home favourite Mehdi Bennani claimed the final spot on the podium having pressed Bjork throughout in his SLR C-Elysee, as he headed the second Volvo S60 of Nicky Catsburg, Norbert Michelisz and main race polesitter Tiago Monteiro.
Tom Chilton completed a pair of opportunistic overtakes late on to claim seventh ahead of the ailing Coronel and Nestor Girolami.
Single-seater convert Aurelien Panis claimed the final point on his WTCC debut, profiting from Zengo Motorsport team-mate Daniel Nagy retiring from ninth after smacking a wall three laps from the finish.
RESULT - 20 LAPS:
|1||Esteban Guerrieri||Campos Racing||Chevrolet||31m30.426s|
|2||Thed Bjork||Polestar Cyan Racing||Volvo||0.654s|
|3||Mehdi Bennani||Sebastien Loeb Racing||Citroen||1.289s|
|4||Nicky Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing||Volvo||1.921s|
|5||Norbert Michelisz||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda||2.201s|
|6||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda||2.803s|
|7||Tom Chilton||Sebastien Loeb Racing||Citroen||14.032s|
|8||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet||20.390s|
|9||Nestor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing||Volvo||20.858s|
|10||Aurelien Panis||Zengo Motorsport||Honda||21.950s|
|11||Daniel Nagy||Zengo Motorsport||Honda||3 Laps|
|-||John Filippi||Sebastien Loeb Racing||Citroen||Retirement|
|-||Rob Huff||Munnich Motorsport||Citroen||Retirement|
|-||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda||Retirement|
|-||Yann Ehrlacher||RC Motorsport||Lada||Retirement|