Bjork takes championship lead with victory in the Feature Race

by James Bowers
Bjork-VictoryR3-Marrakech2019-WTCR

Thed Bjork stormed into the lead of the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) points standings, after taking victory in the feature race at Marrakech.

Before the start of the race, Nicky Catsburg‘s day was getting worse. As a legacy of the brake failure that sent the Dutchman into retirement from the lead in race two, Catsburg’s Hyundai was too damaged to take part in the final race of the weekend.

It was the Audi of Frederic Vervisch that started the feature race from pole position, however the Belgian’s lead didn’t even last until Turn 1. After a poor getaway from the line, Vervisch was swamped by both Cyan Racing cars of Yvan Muller and Thed Bjork, with Muller assuming the race lead.

Just behind, Mikel Azcona also made a great start and edged his way past the Honda of Tiago Monteiro. Monteiro then came under pressure from the cars behind, with Esteban Guerrieri drawing alongside him on the left, and Yann Ehrlacher attempting to overtake on the right.

However, as the cliche suggests, three into one doesn’t go. At the end of the long straight, Ehrlacher attempted to sweep around the outside into Turn 7, but minor contact with Monteiro – who had nowhere to go as Guerrieri was to his left – sent the Frenchman into the barriers. As Ehrlacher’s car hit the wall, it bounced back into the path of Monteiro who got collected in the incident. Both would immediately retire from the race, and with their cars stricken on the circuit, the safety car had to be deployed.

Later on in the race, Yvan Muller suddenly noticed an issue at the front of his Lynk & Co, having led the race comfortably thus far. Eventually, on lap 14, the steering issue rendered his car undriveable and he plummeted down the order into retirement. This meant that for the second race in a row, a mechanical failure would snatch victory away from the race leader.

Thed Bjork therefore inherited the lead, while Augusto Farfus then added to the list of retirements after his Hyundai’s gearbox broke. That wouldn’t be the end of the mechanical woe either. Heading into the penultimate bend on lap 21 of 23, Jean-Karl Vernay‘s rear brakes gave way, sending his Audi spinning from fifth position into the tyre barriers. The huge accident would actually write-off Vernay’s Audi, and it also brought out the second safety car of the race.

With so little time left, the race ended under yellow flag conditions. Thed Bjork was the winner, taking the first ever race victory for Chinese brand Lynk & Co, ahead of pole-sitter Frederic Vervisch. 21 year-old Mikel Azcona surprised everyone by taking home a podium result on his debut in the WTCR.

Full Race Result

PositionDriverCarGap to Winner (Seconds)
1stThed BjorkLynk & CoN/A
2ndFrederic VervischAudi+0.680
3rdMikel AzconaCupra+3.039
4thEsteban GuerrieriHonda+6.182
5thGabriele TarquiniHyundai+10.174
6thNestor GirolamiHonda+12.127
7thGordon SheddenAudi+14.725
8thNorbert MicheliszHyundai+15.455
9thMa Qing HuaAlfa Romeo+16.128
10thDaniel HaglofCupra+17.233
11thAttila TassiHonda+20.473
12thMehdi BennaniVolkswagen+20.773
13thAndy PriaulxLynk & Co+21.143
14thTom CoronelCupra+21.725
15thRob HuffVolkswagen+22.785
16thKevin CecconAlfa Romeo+23.307
17thJohan KristofferssonVolkswagen+23.780
18thNiels LangeveldAudi+24.829
19thAurelien PanisCupra+26.067
20thBenjamin LeuchterVolkswagen+27.895
DNFJean-Karl VernayAudiRetired
DNFAugusto FarfusHyundaiRetired
DNFYvan MullerLynk & CoRetired
DNFTiago MonteiroHondaRetired
DNFYann EhrlacherLynk & CoRetired
DNSNicky CatsburgHyundai-

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