BMW national teams and WTCC travel to Marrakech for first time. Munich, 27th April 2009. After a break of over four weeks, the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) returns to action with one of the season's true highlights: the series will...
BMW national teams and WTCC travel to Marrakech for first time.
Munich, 27th April 2009. After a break of over four weeks, the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) returns to action with one of the season's true highlights: the series will make its debut in Marrakech (MA) this weekend, marking the first time in its history that the WTCC has staged two races on the African continent. However, the "Circuit de Marrakech" is not the only one celebrating its debut. The BMW 320si WTCC has had a facelift prior to races five and six of the season. BMW 3 Series production cars have sported the new design modifications since last year, and it is now time to introduce the car's even more elegant, sporting profile to the racetrack.
Marrakech also sees the new "compensation weight" come into play for the first time. This is aimed at balancing out the difference in performance between individual models of car. Based on the lap times achieved in Curitiba (BR) and Puebla (MX), the BMW 320si WTCC with the five-speed H-pattern gearbox and the SEAT Leon TDI have turned out to be the reference models. This means that Andy Priaulx (GB) from BMW Team UK, the two BMW Team Germany drivers, Augusto Farfus (BR) and Jorg Muller (DE), and Sergio Hernandez (ES) from BMW Team Italy-Spain must each carry an extra 40 kilograms of ballast. In contrast, Hernandez' team-mate Alessandro Zanardi (IT), who is competing with a six-speed sequential gearbox, will start with 20 kilos less than in Brazil and Mexico.
Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK):
"Marrakech will be my second street race within a week. Taking part in the London Marathon on Sunday was a great experience, although the last mile felt like the longest of my life. Street circuits are also very challenging in WTCC, but the fact that this one is new and unknown just goes to make it all the more complicated."
Jorg Muller (BMW Team Germany):
"I'm intrigued by Marrakech. It is nice, even after so many years in motorsport, to race at new circuits. The compensation weight ought to cause changes to positions."
Augusto Farfus (BMW Team Germany):
"I'm always keen on travelling to new countries and meeting interesting people. Normally I do quite well on street circuits. However, with all its long straights the Marrakech circuit doesn't have much in common with typical street tracks like Pau. This makes it very interesting."
Alessandro Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
"On Marrakech's long straights the reduced weight of my car due to the compensation weight system should be an advantage. I hope we will be able to build on the performance we showed in Puebla. Morocco will be an interesting adventure."
Sergio Hernandez (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
"Finally we go racing again. It's great to return to the cockpit at such an interesting place like Marrakech. After our promising performance in Puebla I'm fired up to score some more points in Morocco."
History and Background:
The two sprint races in Morocco see the World Touring Car Championship travel to Africa for the first time - the only FIA world championship to stage races on this continent in 2009.
Morocco hosted its one and only Formula One Grand Prix back in 1958. Stirling Moss (GB) won the final race of the season in his Vanwall, ahead of Ferrari drivers Mike Hawthorn (GB) and Phil Hill (US).
An imposing street circuit has been set up in the centre of Marrakech especially for the WTCC event. There promises to be plenty of action when the BMW national teams line up for the first time in front of the impressive backdrop of the Atlas Mountains. On paper, this track has everything that a street circuit should have: tight corners, tricky chicanes, and ominously close crash barriers. However, the circuit in the "Pearl of the South" also boasts an unusually high number of straights.
The "Circuit de Marrakech" is completely new, meaning that no previously-acquired data is available. The BMW national teams will only discover the details of the track's surface, braking and steering points, corner radiants, and nature of the kerbs once they are actually on site. For this reason, it will be very important to acquire comprehensive data during Friday's test session, starting at 15:00hrs local time (16:00hrs BST).
Marrakech lies at the foot of the Atlas mountain range, which stretches well over 2,000 kilometres through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The highest peak is the Toubkal, at 4,165 metres.
The history of Marrakech goes back as far as 1062 when Yusuf ibn Taschfin, ruler of the Berber dynasty of Almoravids, founded the city and made it the centre of his empire. Today, the capital of Morocco is Rabat.
The "Djemaa el Fna" - the Assembly of the Dead - is the city's main attraction. The medieval market is world famous. In 1985, Marrakech's old town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It boasts many architectural masterpieces, such as the Koutoubia mosque.
One of Marrakech's famous sons is Just Fontaine (FR). The footballer still holds the record for the most goals scored at a World Cup: now 75 years old, Fontaine scored an impressive 13 goals in Sweden in 1958.
Priaulx' stamina should be perfect in Marrakech, after competing in the London Marathon on Sunday. He said: "I not only made it, but thanks to the generosity of many I have also raised much needed funds for my Priaulx Premature Baby Foundation. Therefore it was a very satisfying day."
The two WTCC races are both run over eleven laps. This is a total distance of 50.86 kilometres. The first race begins on Sunday at 13:05hrs local time (14:05hrs BST), with race two starting at 14:20hrs (15:20 BST). Both races can be followed on TV on