Thed Björk takes first pole as Norbert Michelisz suffers engine failure

YMR’s Thed Björk headed a Hyundai 1-2-3 in qualifying for the first FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race on the streets of Marrakech, as second fastest Norbert Michelisz suffered from an engine failure.

Hyundai i30 N TCR cars were on top of the times throughout the session, with BRC Racing’s Gabriele Tarquini initially setting the pace.

Hungarian star Michelisz then went to the top of the times after 12 minutes, before his engine let go on his i30, dropping oil around Turn 3 and causing a ten-minute red flag stoppage.

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The engine failure for Michelisz, which saw flames come out the back of his car, will mean that he will not get to start from the front row of the grid, as his BRC Racing Team work to change the engine on his car.

When the session resumed, it took Björk almost 20 minutes before he was able to beat Michelisz’s time, with a lap that was 0.136 seconds quicker.

“It feels fantastic to start in this way, being the champion from last year, it feels good,” said Björk. “I just enjoy coming out driving again, I love street circuits and it’s going to be tight, but it feels good.

“I have to say that I have a good car from Gabriele – he tested this and it’s his baby as he says – and I haven’t really done anything with it, I’m just driving it and it works so big thanks to Gabriele for that. Maybe he doesn’t like me saying that, but we’ll see.”

Tarquini himself ended the session in third, ahead of the leading Audi of Jean-Karl Vernay in fourth.

Rob Huff was the leading Brit in his Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen in fifth, ahead of Campos Racing’s John Filippi in sixth, with the Corsican putting in a fast lap inside the last couple of minutes.

The leading Honda was that of Argentine Esteban Guerrieri in seventh, ahead of three-time BTCC champion Gordon Shedden in eighth, who failed to let his lack of practice running hold him back.

The top ten was completed by the second Volkswagen of local hero Mehdi Bennani and YMR’s Yvan Muller, who was just under a second slower than his team-mate and the last of the Hyundai runners.

Münnich Motorsport Honda man James Thompson just missed out on the top ten and was 11th, ahead of the leading Peugeot of DG Sport’s Aurélien Comte in 12th.

Both of the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo drivers struggled, with Fabrizio Giovanardi down in 21st and team-mate Gianni Morbidelli propping up the timesheets in 25th.

Benjamin Lessennes, who was 24th in his Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda, made repeated mistakes during the session, forcing him down the escape road at Turn 7.

The first race of the WTCR season takes place at 17:00 BST (18:00 CEST) and will be broadcast live on Facebook.

Qualifying results

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 11 Thed BJÖRK YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR 17 1:24.698 0.000
2 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 9 1:24.834 0.136
3 30 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 17 1:25.059 0.361
4 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS 19 1:25.256 0.558
5 12 Rob HUFF Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 19 1:25.294 0.596
6 27 John FILIPPI Team Oscaro by Campos Racing CUPRA TCR 17 1:25.405 0.707
7 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR 19 1:25.530 0.832
8 52 Gordon SHEDDEN Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS 20 1:25.577 0.879
9 25 Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 18 1:25.658 0.960
10 48 Yvan MULLER YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR 15 1:25.679 0.981
11 15 James THOMPSON ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR 20 1:25.729 1.031
12 7 Aurélien COMTE DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 17 1:25.868 1.170
13 68 Yann EHRLACHER ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR 19 1:25.917 1.219
14 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Audi Sport Team Comtoyou Audi RS3 LMS 21 1:25.946 1.248
15 74 Pepe ORIOLA Team Oscaro by Campos Racing CUPRA TCR 21 1:25.947 1.249
16 23 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 20 1:26.032 1.334
17 9 Tom CORONEL Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic TCR 18 1:26.105 1.407
18 21 Aurélien PANIS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 17 1:26.256 1.558
19 70 Mat’o HOMOLA DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 18 1:26.371 1.673
20 20 Denis DUPONT Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 19 1:26.379 1.681
21 88 Fabrizio GIOVANARDI Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 18 1:26.384 1.686
22 66 Zsolt Dávid SZABÓ Zengő Motorsport CUPRA TCR 20 1:26.473 1.775
23 8 Norbert NAGY Zengő Motorsport CUPRA TCR 22 1:26.708 2.010
24 63 Benjamin LESSENNES Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic TCR 14 1:27.065 2.367
25 10 Gianni MORBIDELLI Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 13 1:27.388 2.690
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