After Saturday’s events, all drivers were given the opportunity to launch a fresh challenge for victory on Sunday. As part of the new-for-2018 schedule, a second qualifying session shall determine the starting grid order for the second and third races of the weekend. This means that any mechanical issues or poor results faced in the opening qualifying session, or race, on the first day of the event will have no impact upon the remainder of a driver’s weekend.
Sunday Qualifying Catch-Up:
Due to his role in spinning James Thompson’s Honda Civic FK8 TCR in race 1, Frederic Vervisch entered the session on the back foot. A penalty awarded by the race stewards meant that the Belgian would drop five positions down the order from where he qualified, when the cars lined up on the starting grid for race 2. Things were worse, however, for Vervisch’s Comtoyou Racing team-mate, Denis Dupont. With his Audi RS3 LMS TCR suffering from brake failure, Dupont had a severe shunt into the wall at Turn 1. The damage rendered his car unrepairable, and so Dupont’s weekend ended prematurely.
As for the rest of the field, Gabriele Tarquini posted the fastest time, narrowly pipping Yvan Muller in second place. The rest of the top ten featured; Norbert Michelisz, Thed Bjork, Yann Ehrlacher, Rob Huff, Mehdi Bennani, James Thompson, Jean-Karl Vernay and Pepe Oriola.
As the top ten positions are reversed for race two, however, this meant that Pepe Oriola and Jean-Karl Vernay would line up on the front row of the starting grid, with Tarquini down in tenth.
The Reversed-Grid Race:
Off the line, Pepe Oriola bogged down in his Cupra TCR. Jean-Karl Vernay looked to take the advantage on the outside, while James Thompson tried to do the same on the inside line into Turn 1. There was contact as Oriola tried to defend, but ultimately, Jean-Karl Vernay would come out from the first corner in the lead of the race. Local hero, Mehdi Bennani, would jump up into second place, while Thompson dropped back to the lower end of the top ten.
Through the chicane, cars scattered as Esteban Guerrieri turned Yvan Muller into a half-spin. Both continued, though John Filippi was able to capitalise briefly.
A lap later, Gordon Shedden launched an attack on Tom Coronel for 12th place, but ran too deep into the corner. Managing to keep his Audi on the circuit, Shedden was then narrowly avoided by Mat’o Homola in the first of the Peugeots, as Aurelien Comte in the second Peugeot 308TCR then rapidly closed in. A couple of laps later though, Shedden had shaken off Homola and Comte and was now glued to the back of Tom Coronel’s Honda Civic FK8 TCR once more.
On lap seven, Thed Bjork was now looking to try to force an overtake on Rob Huff for fifth place. The Brit seemed to be struggling though as his Volkswagen’s brakes began to fade. Elsewhere, Zsolt Szabo turned into the first corner, though Gianni Morbidelli had already placed the nose of his Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR onto the inside line. Consequently, Szabo span around and remained stationary on turn 1 with broken rear suspension, while Morbidelli would also later retire his car due to damage sustained from the impact. This resulted in the safety car being deployed as marshalls attempted to remove Szabo’s stricken Cupra TCR from the circuit.
As the race got back underway, Benjamin Lessennes made a swift overtake on John Filippi at Turn 1 for 15th place. Huff’s brakes were now severely worn, which resulted in Thed Bjork and James Thompson eagerly sniffing around to try to pounce on his car’s weakness. Luckily for Huff, the safety car would soon provide him with another momentary respite. As Aurelien Comte headed to the pit-lane with a mechanical failure, Filippi and Lessennes had collided elsewhere on track. Lessennes’ car was left facing backwards up against the wall, and Filippi was later given a 30-second time penalty.
Proceedings got back underway with five laps to go, but even still, resistance was futile for Rob Huff. Regardless, the Brit defended his position hard, but in the end his car simply ran out of brakes. Finding himself down the emergency run-off area at Turn 7, Huff’s race was well and truly over. The same could also be said for the winner of the opening race, Gabriele Tarquini. Limping around, Tarquini would soon retire to the pit-lane.
In the midfield, the racing was now getting fierce. Fabrizio Giovanardi tried a late manoeuvre on Nathanael Berthon at the final corner, which resulted in the Frenchman being shunted out wide. Just ahead, Esteban Guerrieri barged his way past Yvan Muller at Turn 1. Muller wasn’t giving up without a fight however, but as the cars entered the chicane section, Guerrieri was able to block Muller’s advances. A few cars back, John Filippi overtook Mat’o Homola on the inside into the chicane.
Out in front though, Jean-Karl Vernay would take victory for Leopard-Lukoil Team WRT in the Audi RS3 LMS TCR. Mehdi Bennani would cross the line in second place at his home venue, while Pepe Oriola defended the final podium position from Yann Ehrlacher.
Full Results from Morocco Race Two:
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