Michel Nykjaer has taken his maiden win in the FIA World Touring Car Championship at the Marrakech city street circuit in Morocco.
The former European Touring Car Cup winner started from fourth in his Chevrolet Cruze and by the second corner, had bagged second with a brilliant manoeuvre to pass James Nash. He then managed to gain a tow off an initially leading Gabriele Tarquini, passing the Italian and taking the lead before a safety car period at the end of lap six, when Tiago Monterio crashed his Honda Civic.
When the race resumed just two laps remained and he held on to take the honours by just 0.566 seconds. In addition to being his maiden WTCC success it was also the first for NIKA Racing.
Tarquini meanwhile, having started on pole, brought his Castrol Honda Racing Team JAS Civic home in second place, not quite having the top speed to hold off Nykjaer but keeping the others at bay - including Nash and championship leader Yvan Muller, who took third and fourth respectively.
Muller had to deal with team-mate Tom Chilton giving him a biff in the rear during the first lap, but he sustained no damage and brought his car to the finish with Rob Huff, who at one point was ahead of both RML cars, courtesy of the first lap melee, having to settle for fifth in his SEAT.
Alex MacDowall and Marc Basseng had a race-long battle, but the former took sixth and kept ahead of his German rival. The result keeps the ex-BTCC man within touch of his Yokohama Independent trophy rivals Nykjaer and Nash.
Pepe Oriola, Tom Coronel and James Thompson rounded out the top ten, with Coronel the top BMW runner, while Thompson got himself and LADA off the mark and took the final point.
Of the rest, Fernando Monje finished eleventh with the BMW trio of Darryl O'Young, Freddy Barth and Charles Ng in positions 12 through to 14. Rene Munnich finished an unspectacular but problem-free 15th with LADA debutant, Mikhail Kozlovskiy, who no doubt used Marrakech as a testing and familiarisation weekend, 16th from the experienced Franz Engstler.
Home hero Mehdi Bennani was the last classified finisher, having been caught up with Stefan d'Aste in the second corner. He re-joined in the midst of the battle for third in the early stages, with Muller flashing his lights and having to literally muscle his way by. Bennani eventually let the rest of the field through to finish a lap down on the eventual winner.
Four runners failed to finish, with Monteiro - as mentioned - crashing out on lap six at the second corner, an incident that led to the five-lap safety car period. Norbet Michelisz was also sidelined by that, picking up a shattered brake disc through his engine bay from the resulting debris. Chilton and D'Aste were the other two retirees, the former parking his car after suffering front-end damage when he went into the back of Muller, while the latter suffered front left damage from the second corner incident with Bennani.
Tom Boardman did not start after he suffered brake failure during the morning warm-up and crashed into the wall at 70mph. His Special Tuning Racing-run SEAT Leon was completely written off. Boardman is said to be fine, but shaken, with bruising to the lower half of his body and a stiff neck.
by Dexter Fielding