MehdiBennani is one of the very few racing drivers from Africa who managed to break into one of the top competitions under the FIA’s umbrella. He regularly competes in the FIA World Touring Car Championship since 2009, scoring six victories until 2017. His most successful season was 2016, when he was the best driver of independent teams in the WTCC.
He was born on August 25, 1983, in Fes, Morocco. Like many other drivers, Bennani started his career in karting and in 2001 he became a national champion. That wasn’t his only title that year, as he also won the Moroccan Fiat Palio Trophy and became a runner-up in the European Karting Championship.
Start of the career in the open wheel racing
Next success in Mehdi’s career was a 2nd place in the Asian Formula BMW in 2004 after which he has moved to Formula Renault 3.5 Series. Bennani spent two years in that competition but the results were poor. Driving for Avelon Formula team, the Moroccan racer finished on the poor 33rd place while in the following year, as a pilot of Eurointernational, he entered just a couple of races and again failed to impress.
Mehdi Bennani, Avelon team, Formula Renault
In 2007, Bennani competed in the Euroseries 3000 and this time he did better, as he has finished 14th overall. In 2008, Bennani’s best result was a 2nd place at the Historical Grand Prix at Pau circuit.
Next stop in Mehdi's racing career was WTCC
Since 2009, Bennani has been competing in the World Touring Cars Championship. In his rookie year, Mehdi entered selected events with Exagon Engineering team, driving a SEAT Leon. He became the first driver from North Africa to compete in the WTCC. Bennani’s best result was 9th place in both races in Marrakech but he failed to score a single point in his first season.
Mehdi Bennani has started his WTCC career driving a Seat
In 2010, Bennani earned his first points in the WTCC. Driving a Witcher-Sport’s BMW 320 si, Mehdi finished 9th in Marrakech and 10th in Macau, so at the end of the season, he was 20th overall with 3 points.
Bennani moves to Proteam Racing
From 2011 to 2014 Mehdi was driving for the Italian team Proteam Racing. Behind the wheel of BMW 320 TC, he slowly started to improve. In 2011, Bennani succeeded in getting points in 7 races and scored a total of 24 points, finishing 16th overall and 7th in the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy for the independent entrants.
Mehdi Bennani 2013 WTCC Race of Japan
In the following year, the Moroccan racer made further improvement. He scored his first podium after he has finished third in Hungary. Scoring 68 points, Bennani was 10th overall and 7th in Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy what was a relatively good result considering that he had seven retirements.
Video - Mehdi Bennani onboard in Marrakech
The year of 2013 was Mehdi’s last in BMW and again he improved his result in the terms of points. Bennani earned 80 points, but dropped down in the rankings after he finished 12th overall . He finished twice as a runner-up in races in both USA and Japan, and gained much desired confidence for the future.
First WTCC win in the seat of Honda
Bennani’s last year with Proteam Racing was solid again. For the first time, he managed to win a race, being fastest in China, driving a Honda Civic WTCC. A third place in Moscow helped him get to the 11th position in the overall championship standing, with a total of 85 points.
Mehdi Bennani celebrates his first WTCC race victory
Citroen was a huge step forward
Big step forward in Bennani’s career was a move to Sebastien Loeb Racing where he got an opportunity to drive a Citroën C-Elysee, the most powerful car in the WTCC.
However, Mehdi Bennani mostly met expectations set before the start of the campaign. He was 2nd in the race in Qatar, 8th overall with 127 points and a runner-up in the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy, losing to Norbert Michelisz by only four points.
Mehdi Bennani, Citroen C-Elysee WTCC, Sebastien Loeb Racing
2016 - winner of the WTCC Trophy for independent drivers
For the 2016 campaign, Bennani stayed with Sebastien Loeb Racing, driving the same car. He scored two overall victories and finished fifth in the overall standings but most important is that he won the WTCC Trophy for the drivers of independent teams. He beat Tom Chilton.
Next year, in the 2017 WTCC season, Bennani scored three overall wins and finished sixth in the overall standings but lost the Independent's title behind Tom Chilton.