Oriola Holds Off Muller To Claim Maiden WTCC Victory

by Peter Allen
Pepe Oriola - Photo Credit: FIA WTCC

18-year-old Pepe Oriola kept triple World Touring Car champion Yvan Muller at bay to score his first victory in the series in race two in Marrakech.

Starting from second on the grid, Oriola took the lead from fellow Spaniard and SEAT driver Fernando Monje on the first lap. After moving up into fourth off the line, Muller then inherited second when Rob Huff clipped Monje under braking at the hairpin, the reigning champion breaking his suspension and forcing Monje wide.

Muller had reeled Oriola in and was looking for a way past when the safety car made an appearance after Gabriele Tarquini crashed. The Honda driver ran wide over the kerb at one of the chicanes, unsettling his car and making contact with Alex MacDowall, who was trying to pass him.

Once Tarquini’s car had been cleared there was one green flag lap remaining, and Oriola managed to hold on and win. Muller extended his points lead with second place ahead of RML teammate Tom Chilton, who did pull alongside Muller into a chicane earlier in the race but avoided disaster.

James Nash had been pushed down to fifth behind Marc Basseng when Chilton shoved his way past for third, but re-passed the German to take fourth along with the Yokohama Trophy honours.

Tom Coronel finished sixth in his BMW after avoiding the coming together between Tarquini and MacDowall, while Michel Nykjaer was seventh having lost ground off the start following his maiden WTCC victory in race one. Franz Engstler was eighth with Hong Kong drivers Darryl O’Young and Charles Ng completing the top ten.

Muller’s points tally sits at 88, with Nykjaer and Tarquini his nearest rivals on 51. The third race weekend of the season takes place at the Slovakia Ring on 28 April.

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