The opening rounds of the 2014 World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the Marrakech street circuit in Morocco went to Citroen after Jose Maria Lopez and Sebastian Loeb bagged the top two spots on the podium.
Their teammate, Yvan Muller, placed fifth, despite a third-place finish in Race 1, after he got tangled in a crash at the start of Race 2 involving Mehdi Bennani’s Honda Civic and Tom Coronel’s Chevrolet Cruze and was forced out of the race.
Third overall was Chevrolet’s Tom Chilton, followed by teammate Hugo Valente. Behind Muller in sixth place was Honda’s TiegoMonteiro, then Lada’sMikhail Koslovskiy in seventh, with Chevrolet’s Dusan Borkovic in eighth. Taking ninth and tenth, respectively, are Chevrolet’s Gianni Morbidelli and Honda’s Bennani.
Citroen topped the manufacturer’s rankings with 95 points, 51 more than Honda. Lada came last with 34 points.
Race 1 went to the French team, which stayed in the 1-2-3 spots from start to finish, with the Argentine Lopez taking first, followed by nine-time World Rally Championship winner Loeb and four-time WTCC champion Muller in third. British driver Chilton was four seconds behind Muller.
“The most important thing for me in Race 1 was to get a clean start. I had to get ahead of the others as I knew the brakes would heat up eventually. By running in front of the others I had the cleanest air and thus I could save my brakes,” Lopez said.
Race 2 did nothing to hamper the dominance of the Citroen C-Elysees, even after the accident at the start forced Muller out of the race. This time, Loeb clinched first followed by Lopez.French racer Valente took third.
“I was lucky at the start of the second race because I just managed to avoid the accident. Once I could take the lead I sort of had a relaxed race. I didn’t quite expect to win a race this early in the season, although I had podium finishes on street courses like Pau and Macau before. I just hope I can be as successful on regular road courses,” Loeb said.
Bennani, who got fifth in Race 2 despite serving a drive-through penalty for his collision with Coronel, was eventually excluded from the round after race marshals discovered that his car was underweight during the technical checks. Sixth-placer Koslovskiy took his place in the round’s rankings.