The highs and lows of motorsport were experienced by the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team in Marrakech today when Gabriele Tarquini achieved the ambitions of the whole team by taking a fighting second place overall in the second round of the WTCC.
Tarquini started Race 1 from the pole position he secured with a stunning fastest lap in yesterday’s timed qualification. This made the experienced Italian the highest scoring pole position driver in the 9 year history of the World Touring Car Championship, taking his tally to 16 pole positions.
Having been rewarded at the first race weekend at Monza with the third place trophy and having set the Civic’s first pole position of the campaign here in Morocco, the experienced Italian led the first half of Race 1 this weekend and finished the 13 lap battle in a very close second place to Denmark’s Michel Nykjaer.
“I pushed as hard as I could but from the front it is always difficult. It is just a very small place and he got past but I was close to him at the end,” said a happy Gabriele to the applause of the team.
However the emotions took a different turn half-way through the second race of the weekend when the number 3 Civic collided with the wall and his race was over. Having started Race 2 from the fifth row as the grids are reversed for the top 10 qualifiers, Tarquini had passed four cars into sixth place before the accident.
“It is tough to be really challenging at this level,” said Team Director, Alessandro Mariani, “but pole position and second place shows the great potential we have. The season is a very busy timetable with many races and we must try to keep up with our development plans in between those races. I’m sad for Gabriele as he was sixth also in Race 2 when he went out so we would have collected more points.”
After the dramatic climatic conditions at the start of the race weekend which curtailed testing and altered the qualification schedule, race day reflected typical Morocco: blue skies and sunshine beating down on the estimated 70,000 enthusiastic spectators attending certainly the biggest motorsport event in the country. Track temperature climbed above 20C, another factor that had to be taken into consideration by the Castrol Honda race engineers.
Race day stated early for the teams with the 15 minute warm-up. This was to be a useful trial for the Honda Civic of Tiago Monteiro following his contact with the wall in Saturday’s qualifying. Honda Racing Team JAS mechanics worked late into the night to fit a new front suspension unit and a completely new rear axle assembly. The car was looking immaculate as the session started and Tiago tested the car in the few minutes available. He started Race 1 from the seventh row. Having made up four places by half distance unfortunately a collision with the high and hard ramparts around the circuit caused substantial damage to Tiago’s Civic forcing retirement.
WTCC World Touring Car Championship
Round 02: Morocco
|1||Michel Nykjaer (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)|
|2||Gabriele Tarquini (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|3||James Nash (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)|
|4||Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)|
|5||Rob Huff (Seat Leon WTCC)|
|6||Alex Macdowall (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)|
|RT||Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|RT||Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|1||Pepe Oriola (SEAT Leon WTCC)|
|2||Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)|
|3||Tom Chilton (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)|
|4||James Nash (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)|
|5||Marc Basseng (SEAT Leon WTCC)|
|6||Tom Coronel (BMW 320 TC)|
|15||Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|RT||Gabriele Tarquini (Honda Civic WTCC)|