Alfa's Ma tops Ningbo practice as WTCR returns from two-month break

Alfa Romeo driver Ma Qing Hua led opening practice for the Ningbo World Touring Car Cup round, as the season resumed following a two and a half month break

Alfa's Ma tops Ningbo practice as WTCR returns from two-month break

Ma, a race winner already this season in the Team Mulsanne-run Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce, set a time of 1m51.419s around the 2.49-mile circuit in the final 10 minutes of the 45-minute session to end up fastest.

The Chinese driver had been eight tenths clear at that point, though the Munnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R of Nestor Girolami lapped just 0.076 seconds slower at the end of the session and ended up second.

That effort knocked Girolami's team-mate and championship leader Esteban Guerrieri down to third.

Guerrieri scored two wins and four other podiums during the European leg of the season prior to the WTCR summer break, and leads Norbert Michelisz by 24 points in the drivers' standings with the four-round Asian leg of the calendar still to run.

BRC Racing Hyundai driver Michelisz, who has also won two races this season, said "coming into this weekend I was feeling confident, but now that has changed", as a result of the latest Balance of Performance issued by TCR's technical department.

The most recent BoP issued ahead of the Ningbo weekend adjusted the maximum boost pressure Cyan Racing's Lynk & Co 03s and all three Volkswagen Audi Group cars - the Audi RS3 LMS, Cupra and Volkswagen Golf GTI, which were also all given weight breaks by the previous BoP - can run at.

The maximum engine power output for all four cars does however remain the same.

"On paper this should have been a strong weekend for us, but now with the changes to the BoP favouring a lot of other cars in a big way, which was not really obvious for the wider audience, it made me realise that most probably we will struggle," said Michelisz.

"This is, for me, is bad news - you always hope for better things to come but being realistic, it's a big advantage for Audi, Volkswagen and Lynk & Co in terms of performance.

"It's going to be three, four tenths per lap which they get as a benefit."

Michelisz ended FP1 at Ningbo in 11th, 1.133s off the pace, and two places ahead of team-mate Gabriele Tarquini, who also voiced concerns about the advantage Cyan's Lynk & Cos - which were developed by Geely Group Motorsport - could have at the brand's home race.

The third and fourth BRC Hyundai i30 Ns of Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus were fourth and fifth respectively in first practice, while Yvan Muller was the fastest Lynk & Co runner in 12th.

Motorsport.tv will show live coverage of qualifying and all three races at each of the four remaining 2019 WTCR rounds

FP1 times

Pos Driver Team Car Gap Laps
1 Ma Qinghua Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 1m51.419s 18
2 Nestor Girolami Munnich Motorsport Honda 0.076s 19
3 Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda 0.306s 15
4 Nicky Catsburg BRC Racing Team Hyundai 0.555s 15
5 Augusto Farfus BRC Racing Team Hyundai 0.599s 16
6 Rob Huff SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen 0.806s 13
7 Mikel Azcona PWR Racing Cupra 0.884s 19
8 Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Cupra Cupra 0.920s 14
9 Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Audi Audi 1.011s 15
10 Benjamin Leuchter SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen 1.129s 15
11 Norbert Michelisz BRC Squadra Corse Hyundai 1.133s 18
12 Yvan Muller Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 1.140s 15
13 Gabriele Tarquini BRC Squadra Corse Hyundai 1.184s 15
14 Mehdi Bennani SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen 1.479s 13
15 Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi 1.479s 13
16 Andy Priaulx Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 1.522s 17
17 Daniel Haglof PWR Racing Cupra 1.543s 16
18 Thed Bjork Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 1.557s 17
19 Johan Kristoffersson SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen 1.608s 15
20 Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 1.614s 13
21 Yann Ehrlacher Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 1.665s 16
22 Tiago Monteiro KCMG Honda 1.747s 17
23 Tom Coronel Comtoyou Cupra Cupra 2.025s 18
24 Gordon Shedden WRT Audi 2.302s 15
25 Attila Tassi KCMG Honda 2.444s 15
26 Niels Langeveld Comtoyou Audi Audi 2.680s 19

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Muller takes first win for Cyan Racing in opening WTCR Ningbo race

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