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.

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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.

Race results:

Cla # Driver Chassis Laps Gap
1 100 France Yvan Muller
Lynk & Co 13
2 55 China Ma Qing Hua
Alfa Romeo 13 0.263
3 96 Spain Mikel Azcona
CUPRA 13 2.444
4 5 Hungary Norbert Michelisz
Hyundai 13 2.843
5 88 Netherlands Nick Catsburg
Hyundai 13 3.092
6 21 France Aurelien Panis
CUPRA 13 3.603
7 8 Brazil Augusto Farfus
Hyundai 13 9.028
8 14 Sweden Johan Kristoffersson
Volkswagen 13 11.440
9 10 Netherlands Niels Langeveld
Audi 13 12.526
10 12 United Kingdom Rob Huff
Volkswagen 13 13.903
11 22 Belgium Frederic Vervisch
Audi 13 15.440
12 11 Sweden Thed Björk
Lynk & Co 13 18.021
13 68 France Yann Ehrlacher
Lynk & Co 13 18.602
14 111 Guernsey Andy Priaulx
Lynk & Co 13 19.602
15 29 Argentina Nestor Girolami
Honda 13 20.069
16 69 France Jean-Karl Vernay
Audi 13 20.631
17 31 Italy Kevin Ceccon
Alfa Romeo 13 21.118
18 33 Germany Benjamin Leuchter
Volkswagen 13 21.515
19 86 Argentina Esteban Guerrieri
Honda 13 23.224
20 25 Morocco Mehdi Bennani
Volkswagen 13 26.212
21 18 Portugal Tiago Monteiro
Honda 13 26.576
22 52 United Kingdom Gordon Shedden
Audi 13 28.614
23 9 Hungary Attila Tassi
Honda 13 29.585
24 50 Netherlands Tom Coronel
CUPRA 13 39.538
25 1 Italy Gabriele Tarquini
Hyundai 9 4 Laps
26 37 Sweden Daniel Haglof
CUPRA 8 5 Laps
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Ningbo WTCR: Michelisz takes points lead with Race 2 win

Ningbo WTCR: Michelisz takes points lead with Race 2 win