Norbert Michelisz

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*Opening session of 2019 ends with 12 cars from six brands within 0.3s of Honda ace
*Muller second but kerb hit leads to car damage and possible grid penalty
*Home hero Bennani P21, 2018 title winner Tarquini sixth

Esteban Guerrieri claimed the first DHL Pole Position of the 2019 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO after posting a great lap in qualifying for Race 1 at WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco this afternoon.

The ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR driver hit the top spot 22 minutes into the 40-minute session and held on to start his season in the best way possible, despite 12 cars from six customer brands being separated by just 0.3s behind him, pointing to a tightly contested battle ahead.

“I’m very happy for the team,” said Argentine Guerrieri, whose DHL pole was his and Honda’s first in WTCR / OSCARO. “I wish all qualifying sessions were like this. I was able to set my lap and wait in the pits. I can’t remember the last time I was able to do that. The sun came out and it was probably too hot for the others to improve. It’s a great start. Now I have to start good and try to manage the race. It’s going to be hot and everyone around me is a threat.”

Cyan Racing Lynk & Co’s Yvan Muller and Thed Björk set the second and third best times in their first qualifying sessions in the new Lynk & Co 03 TCR, despite legend Muller suffering a major mechanical problem. The Frenchman was at the top of the times when he hit the kerb hard at the Turn 4 chicane and picked up an oil leak. It is possible he will lose his front-row starting slot for Race 1 if the team is forced to change the engine.

“I hit the chicane at Turn 4, I missed my braking point and went over the kerbs, so I’ve got an oil leak,” said Muller. “The feeling of the car was not bad and I was quickest at the time, but unfortunately the season has not started in the best way. If we need to change the engine I will have to start at the back, but that’s racing.”

Néstor Girolami added to ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s joy with the fourth best time in his Honda, with three-time World Touring Car champion Andy Priaulx qualifying fifth in his first session in the WTCR / OSCARO, making it three Lynk & Co 03 TCRs in the top five.

Reigning champion Gabriele Tarquini was sixth despite complaining of engine problems in his BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR, with Jean-Karl Vernay next in his Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport RS 3 LMS. The pair won the three races at the 2.971km Circuit Moulay El Hassan in 2018 and will be hoping for a repeat performance this time.

Next up of the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID in eighth was KCMG’s Tiago Monteiro, who will be encouraged by such a strong showing in his Honda Civic Type R TCR as he continues his comeback from serious injury. Yann Ehrlacher completed a competitive first qualifying for Cyan Performance Lynk & Co with the ninth fastest time, and newcomer Daniel Haglöf did a brilliant job to complete the top 10 for PWR Racing.

Those out of luck included SLR VW Motorsport’s Rob Huff (P16) and Team Mulsanne’s Ma Qinghua in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR (P22). Both suffered punctures, as did Comtoyou Team Audi Sport’s Frédéric Vervisch, who was down in P24.