Marrakech grid to be shaken up with up to seven grid penalties

The grid for Sunday’s two World Touring Car Championship races in Morocco are set to be shaken up by a number of engine change and driving infringement penalties, which is clear even before qualifying has taken place, with five cars having changed their engine since the first round of the season in Argentina last month, and with two drivers carrying over driving standards penalties from Argentina.

Citroën’s Yvan Muller and Campos Racing’s John Filippi will both drop five positions from wherever they qualify in race one due to incidents with Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani and Lada’s James Thompson respectively at the first round of the WTCC at Termas de Río Hondo back in March.

In addition to this, Craft-Bamboo Racing has changed the engine on Gregoire Demoustier’s Chevrolet RML Cruze, as have Lada Sport Rosneft on the two Vestas of Rob Huff and James Thompson, after both experienced engine problems in testing earlier this month at Portimao, which will see all three sent to the back of the grid for race one.

There are set to be another pair of grid penalties after Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente and ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton changed their engines this weekend, with both running a brand new upgrade from RML in their Chevrolet Cruzes. This will earn them the same back of the grid penalty as Huff, Thompson and Demoustier. Valente’s penalty would have occurred in any case, as the Frenchman broke two engines in Argentina.

“It’s my fourth engine of the year,” said Valente to TouringCarTimes. “I broke one in Le Castellet with Dusan (Borkovic)’s (old car) and two in Argentina. The first was because the wheel came off, and in Argentina the brakes failed both times. So I’m now on my fourth one, it’s brand new, it’s the upgrade as well, but I can’t tell yet how much faster it is yet.

“Tom Chilton has the new engine as well. There’s not one second in it, but it’s going to be a little faster compared to the other drivers, but it’s hard to quantify, as it all depends on the track.”

With the grid for race one set to be disrupted due to the seven penalties, thoughts then turn to race two, where the results from qualifying are reversed for the top ten drivers, which immediately makes setting the tenth fastest time the more strategic move to make. However, Lada’s Rob Huff says he doesn’t plan to get caught up in any complicated manoeuvring in qualifying tomorrow.

“You can’t really aim for it, it’ll either happen or it won’t happen,” he said to TouringCarTimes. “I will get in the car and drive as fast as I can, bearing in mind I need the car for next week (at the WTCC’s Nürburgring test), and the lap time will be what the lap time will be.

“We’re not going for P10, we’re going for pole overall. Alright, it would put us in an awkward position if we were to get pole, but the fact is there’s no point in mucking around and we’re just going to drive to the capability of the car.”