Michel Nykjaer claimed a first World Touring Car Championship for himself and the Nika Racing team in race one on the streets of Marrakech, denying Gabriele Tarquini a maiden win for the Honda Civic.
Starting fourth on the grid, the Dane made an opportunistic start to sneak around the outside of the similar Chevrolet Cruzes of Yvan Muller and James Nash and take P2 behind pole-sitter Tarquini.
Nykjaer then went on to take the lead from Tarquini, shortly before a lengthy safety car period to tidy up the mess left when the second factory Honda of Tiago Monteiro found a concrete wall, just as the Portuguese driver had done in qualifying.
After the restart, Nykjaer held on through the final couple of laps to take victory. Tarquini finished in second ahead of first-time podium finisher Nash. The British driver had followed Nykjaer past Tarquini before the safety car, but soon gave the place back having overtaken under yellow flags.
Muller had found himself down in fifth place behind the SEAT of Rob Huff after the start, and he had to work hard to get past. Although the Frenchman managed to pull alongside the defending champion onto the straights, the SEAT appeared to have better top-end speed and was able to keep the position until Muller found a way past at the hairpin.
Alex MacDowall finished in sixth behind Muller and Huff in the second Bamboo Engineeering Chevrolet, ahead of Huff’s All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport teammate Marc Basseng. Pepe Oriola was eighth, ahead of Tom Coronel and James Thompson, who both recovered from qualifying shunts to score points.
Tom Chilton ran into the back of RML teammate Muller at the start and later visited the pits after his Chevrolet slowed.