BRC Racing Team’s Gabriele Tarquini converted pole position into a second race victory of the weekend, with the 56-year-old Italian leaving Morocco in the lead of the World Touring Car Cup standings.
Tarquini had a lightning start in his Hyundai i30 N TCR, while alongside him on the front row, Yvan Muller had a poorer getaway and moved to the left to defend against Tarquini’s team-mate Norbert Michelisz, with the two making contact.
This allowed Muller’s YMR team-mate Thed Bjork through into second ahead of the pair, while Yann Ehrlacher in the Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic moved up into fourth ahead of Michelisz.
Muller was soon given a driving standards warning for the move at the start, while brake issues quickly became apparent for two of the Audis, with Gordon Shedden running off down the Turn 7 escape road on lap five while in 11th position behind the Campos Cupra of Pepe Oriola, and would later retire.
Frédéric Vervisch was now promoted into 11th, but the Belgian had a similar issue, with his brakes failing him into the same corner two laps later and clipped the rear of Oriola’s Cupra. Oriola continued while Vervisch was down the escape road and required recovery, with the safety car deployed.
The race resumed with Tarquini still leading Björk and Muller, with Muller being harried by his nephew Ehrlacher during the next few laps.
The Münnich Honda of Esteban Guerrieri was battling Oriola for tenth, but lost ground and found himself side-by-side with Oriola’s team-mate John Filippi into Turn 11, with the Corsican knocking Guerrieri wide and dropped him down to the back of the pack.
The safety car was out again on lap 16 after the Comtoyou Audi of Nathanaël Berthon retired following contact with the DG Sport Peugeot of Mat’o Homola.
The race resumed on lap 18, with Björk suddenly losing pace and falling behind team-mate Muller into third position due to a technical glitch.
The Swede was able to fend off Ehrlacher’s Honda to keep third, while Tarquini went on to win the race by 2.5 seconds.
Tarquini now moves into the lead of the championship on 62 points, seven clear of Björk, with Race 2 winner Jean-Karl Vernay 21 points behind heading to the next round of the WTCR at the Hungaroring in three weeks’ time.