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WTCR Marrakech: Vernay holds off Bennani for race two victory

Jean-Karl Vernay WTCR Marrakech 2018Jean-Karl Vernay cantered to a comfortable win in the reversed-grid World Touring Car Cup race at Marrakech from second on the grid, beating home favourite Mehdi Bennani.

Vernay never escaped more than two seconds up the road from Bennani, but always appeared in control as he swept to victory in the second race of the new WTCR era.

The 2017 TCR International Series champion grabbed the lead at the start of the race, outdragging polesitter Pepe Oriola on the run to the first corner.

Vernay left room on the inside for Oriola to attempt to squeeze his Cupra back through, sending Vernay wide, but the Audi man held on to his lead as Bennani slipped his way into second while Oriola and James Thompson - who lost traction on the inside line - were delayed.

After early pressure from Bennani, Vernay pulled out a comfortable early advantage over the Volkswagen Golf GTi driver and looked in control at the head of the field.

But his lead was wiped out after eight of the original 18 laps when Zsolt David Szabo stopped at the first corner.

Szabo had turned into the path of the Alfa Romeo of Gianni Morbidelli at the start of the previous lap, but his Cupra was retrieved quickly and racing resumed two laps later.

Bennani pursued Vernay closely, before the safety car then returned to the track when Benjamin Lessennes stopped at the end of the back straight with his Honda Civic pointing the wrong way.

Vernay made a better getaway on the second restart and quickly established a lead of more than a second over Bennani and, while he did not manage to extended the lead further, maintained the buffer over the remaining six laps to seal the win.

Jean-Karl Vernay WTCR Marrakech 2018Oriola completed the podium, with Yann Ehrlacher fourth in the leading Honda Civic.

Thed Bjork had been involved in a feisty scrap with Rob Huff for fifth for the majority of the race before Huff ran straight on at the end of the straight approaching the Turn 7 left-right after the second restart.

Huff retired to the pits at the end of the same lap with an unspecified issue.

Bjork therefore finished fifth in the first of the four Hyundais, with Thompson sixth.

Norbert Michelisz registered his first points of the weekend in seventh in his BRC Racing Hyundai i30 N.

Yvan Muller briefly got ahead of Esteban Guerrieri after the second restart, but was repassed with four laps to go and, despite twice drawing alongside the Munnich Motorsport Honda at the Turns 4/5 chicane, remained behind in ninth.

But an incident between the pair was under investigation as the race finished.

Guerrieri twice cut the Turns 4/5 chicane to stay ahead of the Hyundai - the second time having been pushed through the looped Turn 3 by Muller.

Tom Coronel resisted Gordon Shedden to score the final point in his Boutsen Ginion Honda.

Race two result:

1Jean-Karl VernayWRTAudi2031m41.418s
2Mehdi BennaniSebastien Loeb RacingVolkswagen200.890s
3Pepe OriolaCampos RacingCupra203.270s
4Yann EhrlacherMunnich MotorsportHonda203.631s
5Thed BjorkYMRHyundai206.570s
6James ThompsonMunnich MotorsportHonda207.916s
7Norbert MicheliszBRC Racing TeamHyundai2011.929s
8Esteban GuerrieriMunnich MotorsportHonda2013.630s
9Yvan MullerYMRHyundai2014.555s
10Tom CoronelBoutsen Ginion RacingHonda2014.959s
11Gordon SheddenWRTAudi2015.386s
12Mat'o HomolaDG Sport CompetitionPeugeot2019.480s
13Fabrizio GiovanardiTeam MulsanneAlfa Romeo2020.091s
14Aurelien PanisComtoyou RacingAudi2021.327s
15Nathanael BerthonComtoyou RacingAudi2022.411s
16Norbert NagyZengo MotorsportCupra2024.790s
17John FilippiCampos RacingCupra2048.169s
18Rob HuffSebastien Loeb RacingVolkswagen173 Laps
19Gabriele TarquiniBRC Racing TeamHyundai164 Laps
-Aurelien ComteDG Sport CompetitionPeugeot11Retirement
-Benjamin LessennesBoutsen Ginion RacingHonda10Retirement
-Frederic VervischComtoyou RacingAudi9Retirement
-Gianni MorbidelliTeam MulsanneAlfa Romeo9Retirement
-Zsolt SzaboZengo MotorsportCupra7Retirement
-Denis DupontComtoyou RacingAudi0Withdrawn

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