After a promising start, the weekend was brought to a scary and abrupt end for Tom and the Special Tuning Racing team on race day.
The test session planned for the Friday was cancelled due to adverse weather. Torrential rains washed out the day and the team worked to prepare the car for FP1 the next day.
Saturday brought better weather, and Tom was quickly on the pace in FP1. He briefly topped the timings 10 minutes into the session, but was quickly out done by the following Chevrolet of Tom Chilton. To be successful on the Circuit Moulay El Hassan, a tow is required from another car. Two car teams have the advantage here, and with out a team mate Tom would have to look for a tow from another driver. Another feature of the track this year was the new curbs put in place since resurfacing work had taken place. These curbs where more prominent than in recent years, and caution was required at first to gauge how to drive over them. Tom pushed to improve his time and on the last lap of FP1 he took a more aggressive line through the chicane and over the curbs only to have the top mounts break on the front right of the car. The car was duly returned to the garage and the team set about fixing and strengthening as much as possible the mounts.
Tom then went out for FP2 with a different set up to try and combat the curbs. This set up did not work for him so he came in early in order to safeguard the car and set it back to a more similar setting for qualification.
Qualification started with Tom posting a lap time putting him in P13. He would have to push to make the top 12. The Honda of Monteiro then had a coming together with the wall. This brought out the red flag. When the session resumed Tom fell to 17th as he could not find a tow. When he eventually found the BMW of local hero Medhi Bannani to gain a tow, the Moroccan spun thus putting paid to that lap. Tom came in for one last go and a new set of tyres. This time he put in his fastest two sectors and on the third was an eighth of a second up coming down to the last hairpin bend. He was looking to get well into the top twelve when the BMW of D’Aste spun blocking the track and forcing Tom to take evasive action to avoid a collision. The lap was ruined and his path to Q2 ended. He finished in 19th and would have much work to do on race day to make up places.
Sunday morning and the team had worked late into the night to fix an engine issue. Tom went out for the warm up session and the team’s hard work seemed to have paid off. Tom was the fastest SEAT and the car felt good. He improved on his qualifying time and was working on getting the best out of the car for the race. He eyed Alex Macdowell ahead in the Chevrolet Cruze and looked to get a tow behind him. As he came into turn 7 he hit the breaks at his usual breaking point to find no front breaking. He then turned to avoid the Chevrolet, downshifted as fast as he could to try and take off some speed, hit the high curbs, missed Macdowell, just, then hit the wall at 110 kmph. The impact was great enough to dislodge the concrete wall and break the tv camera cables. Tom was taken to the medical centre then onto the Marrakech military hospital for checks. To the relief of everyone, although very sore from the impact and the safety harnesses doing a great job, he returned to the circuit in good spirits.
The car was not in such good shape as one would expect when you hit a wall at over 100kmph. The extent of the damage is still being assessed, but the team will be working hard to get the car out for the next round in Slovakia