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Yann Ehrlacher wins processional opening race in Morocco

Yann Ehrlacher led a Cyan Racing 1-2 in the opening FIA TCR World Tour race in Marrakech, which featured very little overtaking as the top four finished in the order they started.

The leading sextet of cars made a clean getaway when the lights went out, with no changes amongst the top half a dozen drivers.

Julien Piguet, however, made a slow getaway in his Audi and dropped to 12th, whilst Marco Butti also stalled his Honda and dropped to the back of the field.

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The first major change of the order came when GOAT Racing’s Dušan Borković pitted from tenth on lap ten, the Serbian driver having picked up damage from Sami Taoufik in the early battling.

Moroccan Taoufik could continue, but was later hit with a five-second time penalty for the incident.

Four laps later, Piguet retired his Audi from 11th, and Butti came in to the pit a lap later with an issue on his Honda as well.

Another nine laps elapsed with little action, Victor Fernández, who was running in last anyway, also making a pit lane visit for an issue, before returning to the track.

The most exciting flurry of activity came over two laps from lap 24. Thed Björk, running in eighth after passing Cyan Racing team-mate Ma Qing Hua four laps earlier, made a late dive on Esteban Guerrieri’s Honda into the final corner.

The Lynk & Co made contact with Guerrieri’s Honda, and Björk muscled through. However, the stewards took a dim view on the dive and later gave the Swede a five-second penalty for the move.

A lap later, Ma repeated Björk’s move, again with contact, and briefly took eighth, before falling almost immediately to ninth again, as Sami Taoufik capitalised on the move to move past both drivers.

No further action was taken by the stewards for Ma’s move on Guerrieri, despite the similarities to Björks aggressive pass a lap prior.

The only other move in the race came four laps from the finish, as Hyundai’s Mikel Azcona caught the Volcano Motorsport Audi of John Filippi ahead, passing cleanly at the final corner to take fifth-place.

But at the front, Ehrlacher ran unchallenged to claim a first win of the season ahead of Uruguayan team-mate Urrutia, with BRC Racing’s reigning champion Norbert Michelisz completing the podium.

Néstor Girolami brought his Hyundai home in fourth, ahead of Azcona and Butti in fifth and sixth respectively.

Ma was seventh, after the penalties for both Björk and Taoufik, who had finished ahead on the road, were applied.

Björk was thus classified eighth, ahead of Guerrieri in ninth and Taoufik completing the top ten.

Home hero Mehdi Bennani made one place at the start when Butti stalled, but otherwise his only progress came with the retirements of the drivers ahead.

Race two takes place at 15:30 local time (15:30 BST, 16:30 CEST).

Race results

1 168 Yann EHRLACHER Lynk & Co Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 FL TCR 36 30:56.804 51.087 1
2 112 Santiago URRUTIA Lynk & Co Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 FL TCR 36 0.389 51.208 2
3 105 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 36 1.086 51.180 3
4 129 Néstor GIROLAMI BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 36 2.903 51.223 4
5 196 Mikel AZCONA BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 36 4.812 51.235 6
6 127 John FILIPPI Volcano Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 36 6.141 51.339 5
7 155 MA Qing Hua Lynk & Co Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 FL TCR 36 10.979 51.366 9
8 111 Thed BJÖRK Lynk & Co Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 FL TCR 36 12.814 51.357 10
9 186 Esteban GUERRIERI GOAT Racing Honda Civic Type-R FL5 TCR 36 13.617 51.418 8
10 212 Sami TAOUFIK Volcano Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 36 14.583 51.396 14
11 125 Mehdi BENNANI Team Clairet Sport CUPRA Leon VZ TCR 36 24.021 51.389 13
12 41 Victor FERNÁNDEZ Gil GOAT Racing Honda Civic Type-R FL5 TCR 32 + 4 LAPS 51.497 15
R 199 Marco BUTTI GOAT Racing Honda Civic Type-R FL5 TCR 14 DNF 50.804 12
R 30 Julien PIGUET Team Clairet Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 13 DNF 51.311 7
R 62 Dušan BORKOVIĆ GOAT Racing Honda Civic Type-R FL5 TCR 10 DNF 51.390 11
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