Chevrolet Cruze at WTCC Marrakech – Click above for a high-res image gallery
While a set of races in the World Touring Car Championship might not ordinarily be something we'd cover here at Autoblog – we doubt you'll mind the spoiler – this weekend's rounds in Marrakech, Morocco, held a series of firsts for the international racing series. Not only was this the first time the championship headed into Africa, but the new Chevy Cruze scored its first pole position and followed up by taking first place in both races, with Nicola Larini taking his first race victory in the series.
The former grand prix driver raced for Ligier-Ford, Modena-Lamborghini and Scuderia Ferrari, scoring a career-best second-place finish with the latter at San Marino in 1994 after taking the DTM title in Germany the year before. The veteran Italian racer has been with the Chevy team in the WTCC since 2005, and scored his first race victory in the series in the second round of the double-header in Marrakech after his team-mate Rob Huff turned the first pole position for the new Chevrolet Cruze racer into the car's maiden victory in the first race. Huff's domination from start to finish was only compounded by the fastest laps that the Cruze claimed en route to the checkered flag in both races. The duo faced tough opposition from a field composed primarily of Seat Leon TSFI and BMW 320si touring cars, but the new Chevy, which was unveiled last October before receiving its official livery in December, ultimately prevailed at the new North African track. Details in the press release after the jump, high-res photos in the gallery below.
[Source: Chevrolet and Autosport] PRESS RELEASE
Huff And Larini Win A Race Each In Marrakech And The Cruze Sets Fastest Lap Twice
Historic Double Win For The Cruze In Africa!
Chevrolet wrote history today in Morocco, as the Cruze obtained the first two wins of its racing career, in the first-ever WTCC event held in Africa: Rob Huff took the maiden win, dominating race 1 from flag to flag, while Nicola Larini doubled the count when he clinched his first, long-awaited and well-deserved victory in a closely-fought race 2. It was a less lucky day for Alain Menu, who finished 7th in race 1 and suffered a race incident in race 2.
This memorable week-end for Chevrolet also included Rob's third position in race 2 and Nic's sixth in race 1, which add to Rob's pole position and the fastest laps in both races (with Rob and Alain, respectively). In only three events, the new Cruze has proven to have reached an excellent level of competitiveness, thanks to an extraordinary team effort and the significant progress achieved since the new car's debut in South America.
Rob Huff (1st/3rd): « It's a wonderful day and the car has been just fantastic throughout the week-end. In race 1, starting from the pole, I knew that if I could keep my line I had a slight advantage, so most of the work was done. That's what happened and once in first position I focused on trying not to overheat the brakes, which was the main challenge at this track. As from lap 4, the brake' temperature became quite high indeed, but that was the case for everybody, and things luckily didn't change much. Race 2 was more lively, I managed to overtake one SEAT at the start and another one later on, and then gained two more positions when Jorg Müller and Alain hit trouble, finishing again on the podium. I am very happy, for the team, for Nicola and myself".
Nicola Larini (6th/1st): "At last! I have been waiting so long for this first victory with Chevrolet that I have no words! It is just fantastic, for me and for the entire team. Race 1 was pretty uneventful, in race 2 I made a good start and when Jorg Müller and Alain had a contact at the chicane, I managed to pass Alain, who had lost speed and the best line. Then I kept attacking Müller, I was faster than him, but overtaking is almost impossible in this track, so I just kept putting the pressure on him until he made a little mistake. Once at the front, I just pushed as hard as I could. I just wanted this race win so much".
Alain Menu (7th/17th): "I wasn't very lucky today, but I am delighted with the success of the team. In race 1, not much happened and I just focused on keeping the 7th position. In race 2, I tried to attack Müller at the chicane but I went wide and was slightly touched by Nicola when re-entering in the track. The car sustained some damage and I had to stop in the pits to get it repaired and change tyres. After, it worked well again and I could score the best race lap".
Mark Busfield: "We are obviously very happy with today's results, which go beyond our expectations. It proves that we are competitive, especially when we are on tracks that are new for everybody, and that we have been working well in the past weeks. This is, I believe, the real start of our season".
Eric Nève: "After Pau, Porto and Macau, it is extremely nice to add Marrakech to our collection of victories on street circuits. It proves that regardless of the car, Lacetti or Cruze, we are the best in urban tracks! To see the new Cruze winning so early after its debut is very rewarding. We had some problems in Curitiba and Puebla, but the team has reacted perfectly. A lot of development and testing work has been done between Puebla and Marrakech: it paid off and it is a wonderful reward for everyone in the team. We have enjoyed a great welcome and a lot of support from Chevrolet Morocco who is preparing the launch of the Cruze on the market. We are delighted to offer them such results, which will surely help the sales of the new car".