Winds of change are blowing in the WTCC. Today at Marrakech Michel Nykjær and Pepe Oriola have both scored their first victory in the world championship. And, no doubt at all, they were well deserved.
On a street track that features a lethal combination of long straights, hard braking and chicanes to be negotiated holding the breath, a number of experienced drivers made disastrous mistakes. And yet Nykjær – who only rejoined the championship this year – and Oriola – the youngest of the company – managed to keep cool minds and resist the pressure from much more experienced drivers with better means.
They both in the past had been close to break their duck in WTCC. And today they have been sacred as credible claimants for the 2013 title. And there are a few, in a championship that looks balanced as ever before. Consistency may be the key in the title fight and today Yvan Muller showed he has this concept in mind. After losing the 2012 title despite winning the most races, the Frenchman is now focusing on points, and after four races he has already put together a respectable lead of 37 points.
This could have been a weekend to remember for the Castrol Honda Team, following Gabriele Tarquini’s pole position. However, the second place the Italian driver claimed in today’s race one, hardly matched the disappointment for the three crashes occurred in two days, and also for the victory vanished when Nykjær got past Tarquini.
The championship will resume at Slovakia Ring, on April 27 and 28 for rounds 5 and 6.
RACE 1 – NYKJÆR WINS A DRAMATIC RACE
Michel Nykjær and Nika Racing claimed their first WTCC victory at the end of a race full of drama in which the Dane stole the lead from Gabriele Tarquini fractions of second before the safety car was deployed.
Tarquini and his Honda had led from the start, resisting the pressure from Nykjær and James Nash. However the Italian driver opened a gap at the end of lap 5 and Nykjær did not think twice and took the inside line at the hairpin. Seconds later the safety car was deployed and froze the race following Tiago Monteiro’s crash at Turn 3.
The race resumed with only two laps to go. And those were plenty of action with James Nash, Yvan Muller, Rob Huff and Alex MacDowall having a close battle for third position. Nash managed to stay in third, while Muller beat Huff on the finish line by 0.024 seconds.
RACE 2 – ORIOLA THE YOUNGEST WINNER
Pepe Oriola who will turn 19 in three months became the youngest ever winner of a WTCC race putting in a masterpiece performance and inflicting the first defeat to the Chevrolet cars since Suzuka last year.
The young Spaniard took the maximum out of his front row position on the reverse grid and led the race for the whole distance resisting a huge pressure from the RML duo of Yvan Muller and Tom Chilton. Oriola did not crack under pressure even when the race resumed after a safety car period for a last frantic lap, and did not offer Muller the lesser opportunity to try an overtaking manouevre.
James Nash finished fourth and winner of the Yokohama Trophy, while Gabriele Tarquini and Rob Huff threw away possible good results in two different incidents.