x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Priaulx turns up the heat

Britain's Andy Priaulx withstood the heat to win a frantic second race in yesterday's World Touring Car Championship action in Marrakech.

Andy Priaulx holds off Yvan Muller in Marrakech yesterday to take victory.
Andy Priaulx holds off Yvan Muller in Marrakech yesterday to take victory.

Britain's Andy Priaulx withstood the heat to win a frantic second race in yesterday's World Touring Car Championship action in Marrakech. The Channel Islander success- fully navigated the chaos as the safety car had to be deployed twice, and he held off Yvan Muller in a one-lap sprint after the second restart to claim the victory.

Gabriele Tarquini, the Italian, leads the title standings after winning race one and finishing sixth in the second to take a seven-point advantage over Muller. The opener was a somewhat more serene affair as Tarquini started from pole and led throughout. The battle centred on second place, with Robert Huff forced to defend his position from first Fredy Barth, who surged from eighth on the grid to third by the end of lap one, and then Tiago Monteiro.

The Portuguese ducked ahead of rookie Barth after the latter made an ill-judged bid to overtake Huff, who was forced into a superb sliding recovery to avoid a crash. As Tarquini coasted to the win, Priaulx won a crucial battle with the experienced Alain Menu for eighth place, which gave him pole for the second race under the reverse grid system. That race ultimately finished behind the safety car after Andrei Romanov's late crash at turn 15, and that was a taste of things to come in race two.

Norbert Michelisz set the tone by stalling on the grid and, when Huff spun off into a wall in an incident which collected three of the cars following, the safety car was deployed for the first time. It remained on track for seven laps - and, once it was brought in, the restart did not last long. The aggressive Barth overtook Augusto Farfus to claim fifth position and as Menu attempted to follow his Swiss compatriot's lead, he locked wheels with the Brazilian and sent both cars into the wall. Farfus limped back to the pits but Menu's Chevrolet was stranded on the track and the racing was again reduced to a procession.

The safety car was withdrawn with a solitary lap remaining, with Priaulx ahead of Muller, and Tom Coronel following. That was how it remained as the podium was confirmed, with Monteiro following ahead of Barth, who took the top rookie prize for the second time of the day, and Tarquini. Franz Engstler and Mehdi Bennani led the independent standings in the two races. Huff and Priaulx, the British duo, follow Muller in the standings, while SEAT lead the constructors on 133 points after Chevrolet suffered in race two, with Muller their only finisher.

* PA