The World Touring Car Championship has travelled across the Mediterranean for the third race weekend of the season, with a return to the streets of Marrakech in Morocco.
The Chevrolet team are hoping to continue their unbeaten run, having won all four races so far this season. Reigning world champion Yvan Muller got his title defence off to a great start by winning the first three races. He hopes to continue that form in Marrakech, but is wary of the challenges that lie in wait.
“After the excellent start of the season, my objective is to continue on the same track and win more points,” said the Frenchman.
“Marrakech is not the easiest track and the most critical factor are brakes. There are four very hard braking points every lap and that means that it is difficult to avoid the brakes overheating after three or four laps. The phenomenon is accentuated by the walls and the narrowness of the track: there is very little air circulating at ground level.
“On top of that, the track is only used once a year, meaning it is dusty and does not have a great deal of grip. The suspensions also suffer considerably because you have to ride the kerbs in the chicanes. Marrakech is a complex track with its own specificities, but I'm confident we will be competitive.”
Victory in Race 2 last time out in Valencia means that Alain Menu is Muller's nearest rival in the points arriving in Africa.
“I am happy to go back to Marrakech,” said Menu. “I wasn't very successful last time round, so I feel I have a point to prove. Marrakech is the kind of track that doesn't look very interesting on paper, but once you are there, you realize it is much more technical and challenging.
“It is quite fast and looks more like a track surrounded by walls rather than a truly urban circuit. There is a long fast corner and the chicanes are not that easy; it is essential to exit fast to be best positioned in the straights that follow. Like all city tracks, it will be important to qualify well, although there are a couple of overtaking points.”
Rob Huff has had a difficult start to the season in comparison to his teammates, and his hoping to turn things around this weekend.
“I quite like street circuits,” he said. “They suit well my driving style, and as we will be better off in terms of weight, I really hope I can claim my first win of the year, reduce the points gap and have the real start of my season.”
There are a couple of changes on the entry list this weekend, with a couple of drivers not taking part. Gabor Weber is set to only do the European rounds in the second Zengo Motorsport BMW due to budget constraints, while Fernando Monje is having the diesel engine fitted back in his SEAT ahead of the second round of the FIA European Touring Car Cup in Slovakia in two weeks' time.
One driver who will be there will be Mehdi Bennani, aiming for a top result on home soil.
“I am delighted that WTCC returns to Marrakech,” said Bennani. “It is a great event, very well organised. For us is like having a Formula One Grand Prix.
“The track looks easy because of its layout, but it's not. There are a lot of chicanes and they are fast. If you do not handle them well, then you lose a lot of places on the following straight. With twenty drivers covered by only one second, the races will be close and tough.”
“I won the Yokohama Trophy here in 2009, on my first WTCC race, and then I managed to win again in 2010. I hope I can fight again for victory this year. I wish to offer my fans the view of our national flag waving on the podium.”
- The cars take to the track for testing today (Friday) at 14.30 (BST), with two free practice sessions at 10.30 and 14.15 on Saturday ahead of qualifying at 17.15. The first of the 11 lap races takes place at 13.20 on Sunday, with the second race at 16.20.
- Qualifying will be live on British Eurosport 2 with the two races live on British Eurosport.