Ningbo WTCR: Muller resists Ma for Saturday win
Yvan Muller claimed his first World Touring Car Cup victory with Cyan Racing's Lynk & Co in the opening Ningbo race after resisting a spirited challenge from Ma Qing Hua.
Muller had sealed his first World Touring Car pole for more than three years in Saturday's qualifying session, and used that to good effect to lead the Alfa Romeo of Ma and third-place starter Mikel Azcona (PWR Cupra) into the first corner.
The four-time world champion's sternest test came further round the opening lap, when Ma drew alongside Muller and rubbed panels with the the Lynk & Co, but Muller rebuffed that attack before settling into a modest lead.
But Ma began to mount another challenge for the lead in the closing laps and ran on the tail of Muller through the final sequence of corners, though the Chinese driver ultimately fell short of winning the opening race of his home WTCR round.
Muller's victory did however ensure a home victory for the Lynk & Co brand, while the win was also his first since last year's Ningbo round a little under a year ago.
Azcona ran third from start to finish, though he almost forfeited it on the final lap to the BRC Racing Hyundai of title hopeful Norbert Michelisz.
Michelisz was not close enough to line up a move exiting Turns 10 and 11 on the penultimate lap, but had a much better approach to the two corners on the final lap and attempted to get a slingshot out of the double-corner hairpin.
Azcona was wise to this, quickly moving across to the left to block Michelisz, and kept the Hyundai at bay through the twistier section of the track to claim his fifth podium of the season.
Michelisz nevertheless made ground in the title race with fourth - ahead of teammate Nicky Catsburg and the Comtoyou Cupra of Aurelien Panis - as points leader Esteban Guerrieri failed to score after his fire extinguisher went off on the grid.
Guerrieri, who qualified ninth but started 12th after a three-place grid penalty for an incident at the Vila Real round in July, was wheeled off the grid by his Munnich Motorsport team and started from the pitlane.
The Argentinian made up seven places but ended up outside of the points in 19th, meaning his lead over Michelisz is now just 10 points.
Behind Panis, Augusto Farfus made it three Hyundais in the top 10 by finishing seventh, ahead of the leading Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen of Johan Kristoffersson, Niels Langeveld (Comtoyou Audi) and Rob Huff.
Muller's Lynk & Co teammates Thed Bjork, Yann Ehrlacher and Andy Priaulx could only score minor points in 12th, 13th and 14th.
- Catch the second and third races from the Ningbo WTCR round live and for free on Motorsport.tv.
|1||100||Yvan Muller||Lynk & Co||13|
|2||55||Ma Qing Hua||Alfa Romeo||13||0.263|
|12||11||Thed Björk||Lynk & Co||13||18.021|
|13||68||Yann Ehrlacher||Lynk & Co||13||18.602|
|14||111||Andy Priaulx||Lynk & Co||13||19.602|
|17||31||Kevin Ceccon||Alfa Romeo||13||21.118|
|25||1||Gabriele Tarquini||Hyundai||9||4 Laps|
|26||37||Daniel Haglof||CUPRA||8||5 Laps|
|View full results|
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The boss of the World Touring Car Cup has stated his hope that Cyan Lynk & Co will return next year, following its dramatic mid-season withdrawal over tyre safety concerns.
WTCR organisers have called Cyan Racing Lynk & Co’s withdrawal on the eve of the Anneau Du Rhin round “surprising but also very unfortunate” amid plans to solve the tyre issues.
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The World Touring Car Cup has cancelled its two races on the Nurburgring Nordschleife this weekend because of safety fears over Goodyear’s control tyres on the 15.77-mile circuit.