Gabriele Tarquini made history at WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco on 7 April 2018 by winning the first race of the all-new WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup era after an action-packed opener in Marrakech.
Starting second on the grid, Tarquini got the jump on DHL Pole Position driver Thed Björk to take a lead he’d never lose. But back in the pack there was inevitable contact at Turn 1 as the 25-strong field shuffled for position.
Those in trouble included Comtoyou Racing’s Aurélien Panis and Audi Sport Team Comtoyou’s Frédéric Vervisch whose Audi RS 3 LMS clashed heavily with James Thompson’s Honda. Vervisch was left stranded on the circuit, and after one lap behind the safety car the race was stopped to allow the Audi to be recovered.
The race was restarted behind the safety car, and Tarquini once again made a great getaway to keep his lead from Björk, Rob Huff and Jean-Karl Vernay. But the field only managed about a lap of racing before the safety car was called on again.
Poor Nobert Michelisz, relegated from second on the grid to the back after his engine failure in qualifying, lost his front left wheel, which appeared to depart from his BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR for no obvious reason.
The race got underway once again as the field started lap 11, with Tarquini once again sprinting away to lead from Björk. The Swede’s YMR Team Hyundai i30 N TCR hustled Tarquini’s BRC entry all the way to the flag, but couldn’t find a way past on the tight 2.90-kilometre Circuit Moulay El Hassan.
“I know my child!” laughed Tarquini after the race as he referred to his Hyundai, which he played a key role in developing. “I pushed my child at the start because I knew the start was the key. After that I was relaxed because it would have taken a strong job to overtake. This is a good, good win – especially because I am the oldest! They talk about my pension, but here I am, still learning and still enjoying my racing.”