Yann Ehrlacher gave the Honda Civic Type R TCR two excellent fourth-place finishes to close out the opening round of the 2018 WTCR FIA World Touring Car Cup at the Moulay el Hassan Circuit in Marrakech, Morocco.
The Frenchman impressively made it into the final Q3 section of Sunday qualifying in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport car and set the fifth-fastest time.
From sixth on Race Two’s partially-reversed grid, he avoided some wheel-banging at the first corner to move up to fourth and finished less than a second away from the podium. He repeated the result later on and holds fifth in the Drivers’ Championship.
His British team-mate James Thompson, who returned to the cockpit of a racing car for the first time in 18 months, was an excellent eighth in qualifying, which put him third on the grid for Race Two.
Unfortunately, he was squeezed against the pit exit at the start and was forced to lift to avoid an accident. That dropped him back from second place to seventh and he eventually finished sixth. Another strong eighth place in Race Three leaves him 11th in the Drivers’ standings.
After being the highest-placed Münnich car in Race One, Esteban Guerrieri did well to climb to eighth in Race Two, having qualified 13th. He was making strong progress in Race Three when he was pitched into the wall at Turn 12 by John Filippi while the pair battled.
Esteban is 10th in the points standings while INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport are fifth in the Teams’ table and just a handful of points away from the top three.
Tom Coronel scored his first point of the season in Race Two with a consistent drive in his Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda to 10th. He then missed out on a repeat result by less than a second in Race Three as he continually reeled in the cars ahead of him in the latter stages of the race.
He finished 12th and lies 15th in the Drivers’ table with Boutsen Ginion Racing eighth in the Teams’ points on their debut weekend of World Touring Car action.
Team-mate Benjamin Lessennes; the youngest driver in the field at just 18 years of age, had another tough day. After starting Race Two from 16th place, the Belgian made impressive progress to climb to 12th.
Unfortunately, his race was ruined by Filippi, who turned him into the wall at Turn 11. The damage was heavy enough that the team were unable to fix it within repair time, forcing him to start Race Three from the pitlane. He drove a solid race to finish 17th.
The next round takes place at the Hungaroring in Hungary on April 28-29.
Yann Ehrlacher #68 : « I finished fourth twice so of course I’m happy. I was very pleased with my start in Race Two as I went around the outside of the mess and went up from sixth to fourth and my pace was good enough to hold on to the cars in front of me in both races. Yesterday I wasn’t so happy with qualifying, but the team did a great job to get the car working better for me and I had the confidence to push harder and make Q3. Everything worked out very well from that point. »
James Thompson #15 : « Two weeks ago I wasn’t even planning on racing this year, so to come away from my first weekend in a TCR Honda and have strong top-10 finishes is brilliant. I’ve become more and more comfortable as the weekend has gone on, and that’s been reflected in my pace. I could see my way to the front in Race Two, but I was squeezed into the pit exit by Pepe Oriola and I chose to lift, rather than cause an accident, and that lost me some ground. I’m looking forward to Hungary. »
Esteban Guerrieri #86 : « Today really highlights just how competitive WTCR is going to be this year. If I’d made Q2 then I could have been on the front row for Race Two, but instead I missed it by three hundredths and had a tough day. I’m pleased to finish in the points in Race Two from 12th on the grid and to make some nice overtaking moves on a circuit where it’s very difficult. My start in Race Three wasn’t so good, but then I got Filippi’d and that was that. »
Tom Coronel #9 : « Today I scored my first points of the season and I’m pleased with this. The car was very consistent and as the race wore on I seemed to be able to catch the cars in front of me quite easily. I made a mistake at Turn 1 in the middle of Race 3 and this cost me some positions, but I managed to make some back on a circuit where there are very few opportunities to pass, and that feels pretty good. It could have been all different if I hadn’t missed Q2 by seven hundredths of a second, but that’s racing. »
Benjamin Lessennes #63 – Test and Reserve Driver : « I was reasonably pleased with qualifying today and Race Two was going very well and I was able to make a couple of passing moves on people. Unfortunately, I got Filippi’d coming out of Turn 11; a totally unnecessary incident. The team did a fantastic job to get me back out for Race Three, even if I did have to start from the pitlane. The race was tough because my steering was out by about 60 degrees! I’ve learned a lot and next time in Hungary – at a more traditional circuit – I’m sure we can move up the grid. »
Dominik Greiner – Team Manager : « It’s been a great day for Yann. To make it into Q3 and come home with two fourth places today is an excellent job by him, especially when you look at the drivers he was fighting against. James too; for a guy who hadn’t raced for 18 months before this weekend, showed great speed and was unlucky to lose a chance of a podium in Race Two. The time gaps are so tiny that if lose even a small amount of time, it can make things tough, and this happened to Esteban. His crash in Race Three with John Filippi should never have happened and I place no responsibility with Esteban. »
Olivia Boutsen – Team Manager : « We’ve scored our first points in World Touring Cars today, which is something we can be pleased about and we’ve learned a lot of things about how we can improve our performances already. Tom’s top-10 finish in Race Two was strong and if this was a track where overtaking was easier, he could have been even higher. We are also very pleased with the speed Benjamin has shown today and the team did a fantastic job to fix his car for Race Three. We look forward to Hungary and to moving up the grid. »
Mads Fischer – TCR Project Leader, JAS Motorsport : « The races today were quite good. We identified some areas after Saturday’s race in which all the cars could be improved and today you saw that these worked quite well. Yann was able to show the pace that the Honda Civic Type R TCR had in qualifying and from making Q3 he was able to take two very strong finishes. We know we have some areas that we need to improve for Hungary, but we’re aware of what these are and we’ll work hard to do this. »