Ma Qing Hua leads Citroën 1-2 as López records first DNF
Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua led a Citroën 1-2, taking his first win in only his second WTCC race at the Moscow Raceway in a dramatic race, finishing ahead of four-time champion Yvan Muller who was closing in fast at the end, in a race which saw the points leader José María López stall, and early race leader Hugo Valente given a drive-through penalty.
There was a race to race, as Campos worked to get Hugo Valente’s car out on to the track after the Frenchman had sustained damage in the first race when he was hit by team-mate Dusan Borkovic.
The team managed to get the Chevrolet RML Cruze out of the pit lane with just four seconds to spare, but unfortunately while still working on the car on the grid, didn’t re-fit the wheels in time and picked up a drive-through penalty during the race.
When the race began, Valente was able to get away into the lead while Zengõ Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz was able to pass Ma Qing Hua’s Citroën for second position.
Further back, Championship leader José María López failed to get away from his tenth spot on the grid, with what was identified as a gearbox problem, and so the Argentinian picked up his first no score of the season.
Citroën’s Yvan Muller had a good start from fifth, but was knocked into a slide by Proteam Racing’s Mehdi Bennani which dropped him down to eighth position, and he spent the rest of the race picking his way forward.
Muller benefitted from a mistake by Tom Chilton’s ROAL Chevrolet, and then as the Hondas of Bennani, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro battled ahead, he was able to dive down the inside of all three of them and grab fourth on lap six, which became third when Valente eventually served his drive through penalty, but by now Ma Qing Hua had assumed the lead after a long battle with Norbert Michelisz and was breaking away.
The race then saw a lot of attrition, as both the works Hondas slowed and lost the opportunity to finish on the podium, as did Lada’s Rob Huff, joining team-mate Mikhail Kozlovskiy on the bench who was eliminated earlier in the race after an awkward contact with the other Lada of James Thompson.
Muller eventually passed Norbert Michelisz, who’d go on to lose further spots as his tyres degraded, but the Frenchman was unable to close the gap on occasional team-mate Ma Qing Hua quickly enough, and the 26-year-old driver went on to record the first win for a Chinese driver in the WTCC.
“It was a very tough weekend for me as I missed several of the other race weekends compared to the other drivers,” said Ma. “But we were working very hard….today we’ve done a really good job, and I’m really proud of my team.”
Yvan Muller’s second place in race two, coupled with José María López’s DNF reduces the points gap to 41 heading to the next round of the Championship at the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit in two weeks’ time.