Ma takes maiden WTCR win in Slovakia

by Phil Kinch

Ma Qing Hua has taken his first ever victory in the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) after fending off race-long pressure from Norbert Michelisz in the Hyundai i30 N TCR.

Ma made another lightning getaway off the line, in a repeat of his race one start, to lead the field into turn one and overhauling both Michelisz and pole position man Nicky Catsburg in the process. Behind, Kevin Ceccon in the second Alfa Romeo was making up ground as he made his way past Esteban Guerrieri and Daniel Haglöf

After his race two victory, Néstor Girolami was pushed out wide by Aurélien Panis at turn three and would drop to the tail of the field. The Argentine would later retire from the race with mechanical issues on lap ten, despite making progress through the field.

As Ma led Catsburg, Michelisz and Ceccon, both Haglöf and Mikel Azcona would work their way past Guerrieri as they began to close on Niels Langeveld in the Comtoyou Audi. Further back, Rob Huff was again having to hold off faster cars in the Volkswagen Golf GTi as he fought with Gabriele Tarquini and Augusto Farfus during the race.

Azcona and Guerrieri passed Haglöf for eighth place with Farfus coming past soon after on lap eight. Catsburg had begun to slow with intermittent issues on lap five and was caught up in this battle in the latter stages of the race.

On lap ten, Haglöf and Huff made contact after the PWR Racing driver outbraked himself, allowing Tarquini and Luca Engstler past and making contact with Tom Coronel. Engstler again showed what he could do in an FIA World Series as he hauled his Hyundai, with an extra twenty kilos on board, into the top ten once more.

Michelisz hunted down Ma on lap nine and tried to pass for the lead, however, he couldn’t make it stick. Ma would hold off the BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver for the second half of the race as Ceccon challenged Michelisz on several occasions.

Ma took the win ahead of Michelisz and Ceccon, giving Team Mulsanne its first double podium in WTCR history. Langeveld took his best finish in fourth with Azcona completing the top five. Guerrieri, Farfus, Panis, Tarquini and Engstler completed the top ten places. The final points finishes were taken by Thed Björk, the ailing Catsburg, Huff, Yvan Muller and Gordon Shedden.

With the 2019 WTCR Race of Netherlands only seven days away, Néstor Girolami holds a two-point lead over team-mate Esteban Guerrieri with Norbert Michelisz twenty-one points behind Guerrieri.

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