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Circuit Moulay el Hassan

Circuit Moulay el Hassan map

Overview

The only African round of the World Touring Car Championship is held at the Circuit Moulay el Hassan in Marrakech, Morocco. The fact that the WTCC continues to race on the African continent means that it has more of a claim to be a World Championship than almost any other motorsport series.

The circuit was first used for racing in 2009, when a 4.5 km high-speed track was put into use for the third round of that’ year’s WTCC. The track was unusual in that it formed a street circuit with high-speed straights punctuated by slow chicanes.

The main pit complex and pitlane was originally designed as a semi-permanent structure, whilst the rest of the circuit was formed by using public roads which were closed for the event and lined with concrete blocks.

The early years of the event saw some spectacular shunts, caused not only by the barriers but by the nature of heavy braking into tight chicanes. One particularly notable crash occurred in 2010 when one of the Formula 2 drivers got it wrong heading into Turn 9 and launched his car over the back of a competitor.

The track was omitted from the WTCC calendar in 2011, but returned in 2012 and it has remained ever since, becoming a mainstay of the early season events.

The circuit was heavily upgraded in time for the sixth running of the event in 2015, radically shortening it to 3 km and making the facility a semi-permanent circuit. Gone were the long straights and heavy braking into the chicanes, and in its place came a short, slow and technical street circuit. The concrete barriers were retained, although the new circuit affords slightly greater run-off around the corners in the event of the inevitable shunt or two.

The new circuit has been designed by world-renowned race track architect Hermann Tilke, and from 2016 onwards is also featured on the FIA Formula E calendar.

Whilst both the old and new circuits run counter-clockwise, when the track was altered in 2016 the location of the first turn changed, and is now a much slower left-hander instead of the previous chicane, which now forms part of Turns 7 and 8.

The track offers spectacular views of the Atlas Mountains to the south, and is situated in a part of Marrakech rich in parks and hotels. The walled Jardins de l’Agdal immediately to the north-east of the circuit, dating from the 12th Century, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

In numbers...

Country: Morocco
Length: 2.971 km
Turns: 12
Hosts: WTCC
Opened: 2009
Qualifying lap record: 1:21.457, López (2016)
Race lap record: 1:23.087, Valente (2016)

Snapshots

The long, concrete-lined straights of Marrakech have been shortened with recent changes.
Moroccan ace Mehdi Bennani is the home hero in Marrakech.
The modern, main pit building is a key part of the semi-permanent circuit's facilities, allowing year-round racing to take place.