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Tarquini claims first Honda WTCC pole in Morocco

6 April 2013

Gabriele Tarquini has taken Honda's first pole position in the FIA World Touring Car Championship in only his second meeting with the Japanese manufacturer at the Marrakech city street circuit in Morocco.

The experienced touring car racer managed to see off the Chevrolet challenge as his time of 1 minute 44.358 seconds was just enough to cement not just his first pole of 2013 but JAS Castrol Honda Racing's as well.

Tarquini, now 52 years old, made a habit of drafting various Chevrolets down the street circuit's long 150mph straights and giving the Honda a good run over the daunting kerbs at the Moroccan circuits' chicanes, sneaking in a lap time early on in the second qualifying period, the session being marred by an incident similar to Monza, where two team-mates clashed.

James Nash meanwhile, came agonisingly close to displacing the Italian, the former Team Aon driver being helped by slipstreaming other Chevrolet cars around him on the track. Nash will start alongside his more experienced competitor on the front row, but can take comfort by being top Independent.

Yvan Muller, who had been very quick in the earlier practice sessions, couldn't get a vital tow and he also wasn't helped by a back-marker. He will start from third place on the grid.

Michel Nykjaer kept up his impressive pace from Monza, the former European champ taking up the spot next to Muller as he too found clean air in the midst of the long Chevrolet tow train. Tom Chilton kept out of trouble and quietly ended up in fifth, thanks to drafting RML team-mate Yvan Muller in the final stages, but lost out in the last section of the lap, partly due to traffic on his fast lap and the sheer pace of Tarquini during the latter part of the lap.

The final Chevrolet of Alex MacDowall ended up sixth, not quite getting the best from the drafting group, but on the third row and still up near the sharp end. Munnich Motorsport drivers Rob Huff and Marc Basseng made their way round to a relatively trouble-free seventh and eighth, respectively, Huff being top SEAT, although there are small concerns for the German team, with some problems from Monza seemingly re-appearing this weekend.

The battle for top Spainiard went to Pepe Oriola in his SEAT, due to the reverse grid for race two, he will start in second place next to countryman and fellow SEAT driver, Fernando Monje, despite holding up the Chevrolet queue in the final stages of the session.

Tom Coronel finished up eleventh with James Thompson twelfth. They both failed to get out in the second qualifying session having suffered damage in the first period; both cars should be able to start the race tomorrow. Thompson damaged his front right steering and suspension after a gentle nudge with the wall on the exit of the final hairpin onto the pit straight and Coronel took out his team-mate Daryll O'Young in a near repeat episode of the LADAs at Monza two weeks ago. The two ROAL Motorsport cars made it back to the pits with minor, if not heavy looking front and rear end damage, O'Young having managed to qualify in 13th place.

The second JAS Castrol Hond Racing car of Tiago Montiero qualified a disappointing 14th, having crashed in the first session with right front damage to his Civic, having got the car crossed up on the chicane kerbs.

The BMW's of Franz Engstler and Freddy Barth made their way round to 15th and 16th, Barth taking some adventurous lines round the African track. Norbert Michelisz struggled with braking issues, also having to play catch up after an exhaust mount caught fire in practice, but getting through to 17th. Local hero Mehdi Bennani had a harmless spin en-route to a disappointing 18th.

Completing the rest of the field in positions 19 through to 23 are Tom Boardman, Charles Ng, Stefano D'Aste, Mikhail Kozlovskiy who is replacing ALeksei Dudukalo for the remainder of the season, and Rene Munnich, who suffered with various issues in his SEAT.


by Dexter Fielding


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