German based WTCC Independents outfit Wiechers-Sport, and their driver, Moroccan Mehdi Bennani had a solid weekend during the opening round of the 2010 FIA World Touring Car Championship at Curitiba, Brazil.
Bennani, who made his debut during the inaugural round at the Marrakesh circuit in 2009, at the wheel of an Exagon Engineering Seat Leon has moved to a BMW 320si for 2010, and before flying out for the opening weekend of the season, had a brief shakedown in Germany, to get a feel of the car.
As the race weekend progressed, Bennani's pace increased, and at the end of qualifying, Bennani had set the 15th fastest time, and third in the Independents category.
The first race of the season saw the heavens open and the track soon became soaked, thus meaning the race started behind the safety car. Soon after the safety car was withdrawn, he took the lead in the Independents before a small mistake later in the race relegated him to 17th overall, and 6th in the Independents.
A bone dry circuit greeted the drivers for the second race of the weekend, and after 14 laps of the 3.7km Curitiba track, finished 12th overall and took his first Independents podium finish of the season, with a fine third place, after a battle with the bamboo engineering cars of Darryl O'Young and Harry Vaulkhard, as well as Stefano D'Aste.
After the races, Bennani said: “My first race with the Wiechers Sport Team in Brazil was a good start to this year’s championship. We have always completed all practice sessions between the second and third place. In Qualifying we drove to an excellent third place. In Race 1 I got a good start and had just overtaken D’Aste and O’Young, then unfortunately I made an error in Turn 2 of lap 3, finishing the race 6th. The second race was a very tough race with lots of overtaking, the Wiechers Sport Team has prepared a very good setup for these weather conditions and the vehicle was going well in the wet and dry, so we could finish the race on a good third place. I think that we will have some good chances and we can win some races this year! “
These results mean that Bennani is currently in joint fourth place of the Yokohama Independents Trophy and the WTCC Rookie Challenge, with 9 points.
The next race for Bennani and the team occurs at home, in Marrakesh after the cancellation of the Mexican rounds. Rounds 3 and 4 occur on the 2nd May.