Photo: WTCC Media

Yvan Muller leads first practice at Marrakech

Yvan Muller led a close-fought first practice at Marrakech, with the fastest time swapping between the RML Chevrolets and the Hondas throughout the session, with Muller ending up on top by just three-hundredths of a second.

After rain washed out all running on Friday, Saturday began without a cloud in the sky, with all 23 cars all taking part in the 30 minute session.

Pepe Oriola set the first benchmark for the Tuenti Racing Team, but soon after Gabriele Tarquini took over, holding the fastest time for the first 10 minutes of the session in the Honda Civic.

In the middle part of the session it was Tom Chilton’s turn to lead, with the RML driver first to break into the 1:48s, and then also into the 1:47s. The Hondas upped the pace with Gabriele Tarquini setting a time of 1:46.718 to go quickest, before Norbert Michelisz went to the top of the time sheets with a 1:46.601.

During the last few minutes of the session, Tarquini snatched P1 back with a time of 1:46.125, before Yvan Muller showed his true pace, setting the fastest time in all three sectors to take P1 with a lap of 1:46.093 in the RML Chevrolet Cruze, though is still some way off former team-mate Alain Menu’s pole position time of 1:43.753 set last year.

Muller’s team-mate Tom Chilton ended up third fastest, with Norbert Michelisz the second fastest of the Hondas in fourth.

James Thompson, who has never raced at the Marrakech circuit before, was fifth fastest in the newly-built Lada Granta, with Tom Coronel the fastest BMW driver in sixth.

Michel Nykjaer was top of the Yokohama Independents’ Trophy drivers in seventh, whilst Fernando Monje was the fastest of all the SEAT drivers in tenth for Campos Racing.

A few cars were forced to cut the chicane, including WTCC newcomer Mikhail Koslovskiy, who ended up 22nd fastest on his first session for Lada. Also struggling in the session was Münnich Motorsport’s Rob Huff, with the reigning champion just 15th fastest in the SEAT León WTCC.

At the end of the session, Tom Boardman’s SEAT stopped in the final hairpin which brought out the yellow flags, stopping any improvements during the final minutes.

The next practice session is scheduled for 12:15 WET.