Morocco WTCC: Loeb survives chaos to win on WTCC debut

Sebastien Loeb is already a WTCC winner after avoiding the carnage of a dramatic second race around the streets of Marrakech.
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  • Sebastien Loeb tiptoes through the carnage to claim victory on his debut WTCC weekend
  • A huge start-line crash eliminates Coronel and Muller, with Bennani penalised
  • Just 10 cars reach the finish line, with Valente picking up his first podium

Sebastien Loeb has marked his World Touring Car Championship debut weekend with an accomplished win as chaos reigned around him on the streets of Marrakech.

After finishing second in his maiden WTCC race as part of a dominant 1-2-3 showing from series newcomers Citroen, Loeb fought his way up from ninth position on the grid thanks to a combination of accidents around him and the C-Elysee proving to be unstoppable even around such a tight street venue.

Indeed, Loeb was arguably the big beneficiary from a dramatic start line incident, prompted when pole sitter Tom Coronel came across to defend from home hero Mehdi Bennani, resulting in a tag from the Moroccan. The contact would send Coronel clattering into the barriers one way, before scything across the path of the field into the opposite barrier.

Amidst the shower of debris as the ROAL Chevrolet broke up, Yvan Muller had nowhere to go back into the back of the Dutchman's car, causing significant damage to his Citroen and putting both drivers out on the spot.

With the race halted and an angry Coronel confronting a tearful Bennani on the reformed grid, the emotional Proteam Honda driver would at least find an ally in Gabriele Tarquini, who insisted it wasn't his fault that Coronel crashed, the Italian claiming the WTCC veteran shouldn't have come across so far.

Unfortunately for Bennani, and the local fans, the stewards didn't agree and on the rolling restart – which he led – he was quickly given a drive-thru penalty for his part in the accident.

A perfect scenario for Loeb, having moved up to third after picking his way through the carnage at the start, he quickly moved into second when he passed Hugo Valente straight away in the first corner, while Bennani's penalty meant passing him was a formality too.

Indeed, Citroen's evident advantage over its rivals with the new TC1 regulations was made particularly clear by race one winner Jose Maria Lopez as he made gains through the order, simply out-dragging the Hondas and the Chevrolets in a straight line to go from seventh to second in just two laps.

However, Lopez's efforts weren't enough to get him close to Loeb, the nine-time World Rally Champion proving in his first weekend that he could potentially be a title challenger in his maiden season of touring car racing. It also means he leaves Morocco just behind Lopez in the standings.

Behind them, the battle for the remaining positions was tied into a battle of attrition, a fact displayed by five of the 20 cars failing to make the start at all. With Coronel and Muller also out, it remained a fight to the finish.

Rene Munnich was the first to fall, going off at the first turn, while fellow Chevrolet driver Dusan Borkovic followed suit soon afterwards with technical issues on the Campos car.

The latter stoppage duly brought out a safety car, which in turn bunched up the field with Tiago Monteiro holding down third, from Hugo Valente and Tom Chilton.

With the factory Honda seemingly struggling, Valente wasted no time in getting up to third place, with Monteiro proceeding to bottle up his rivals behind him, including Chilton, Mikhail Kozlovskiy in the LADA Granta, Gianni Morbidelli and Bennani, who was back in the pack following the safety car.

Buoyed on by the home support, Bennani quickly made gains, passing Morbidelli, Kozlovskiy and Chilton to go fifth, before moving into fourth position when Monteiro's Civic finally slowed with a problem with just two laps remaining.

Further up the road though, Valente would come home a very satisfied third for his first-ever WTCC podium after being unchallenged almost the entire way, though the fight for fourth would reignite as Chilton – minus some of his bodywork – remounted an attack on Bennani.

Coming down to a final corner dash to the finish line, the Chevrolet's superior pace would see Chilton grab fourth by just three hundredths of a second. Even so, fifth place remains Bennani's best result on home soil.

With team-mates Rob Huff and James Thompson failing to start, Kozlovskiy gave LADA something to smile about with an assured run to a career-best sixth place, the Russian youngster holding off ex-F1 driver Gianni Morbidelli in the process.

Rather more reliable than their TC1 successors, all three TC2 cars made it to the finish, with Franz Engstler, John Filippi and Pasquale di Sabatino all picking up points for finishing eighth, ninth and tenth.

Tagged as: Citroën

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sebastien Loeb - Citroen C-Elysee [pic credit: FIA WTCC]
Sebastien Loeb - Citroen Racing C-Elysee [credit: FIA WTCC]
Sebastien Loeb - Citroen Racing C-Elysee [credit: FIA WTCC]
Sebastien Loeb - Citroen Racing C-Elysee [credit: FIA WTCC]
Alain Menu
Michel Vaillant - Alain Menu
John Filippi - Sebastien Loeb Racing
Ryo Michigami, Honda Racing Team JAS [Credit: WTCC]
Rob Huff - Munnich Motorsport Citroen C-Elysee
Medhi Bennani, Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen, WTCC [Credit: WTCC media]
Nestor Girolami, Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo, WTCC [Credit: WTCC]
Tom Chilton, Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen [Credit: XPB]
Tom Coronel, Roal Chevrolet [Credit: WTCC media]
Gabriele Tarquini, Lada, Moscow [Credit: WTCC media]
Nicky Catsburg, Lada, WTCC [Credit: WTCC media]
Nicky Catsburg, Lada, WTCC [Credit: WTCC media]
Jose Maria Lopez, Citroen, [Credit: WTCC media]
Jose Maria Lopez - Citroen Racing [credit: Florent Gooden / DPP]

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