Ma Qing Hua leads the way in first practice at Ningbo

Team Mulsanne’s Ma Qing Hua was fastest of all in the first practice session at the Ningbo International Speedpark in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR, topping the time sheets ahead of the two Münnich Motorsport Hondas of Néstor Girolami and Esteban Guerrieri after 45 minutes.

Ma set the early pace in his Giuletta, but before ten minutes were up he’d been quickly displaced by the Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR of Rob Huff, with Huff setting a time of 1:52.225.

Huff’s time held him at the top until the closing ten minutes, when Ma surged forwards with a time of 1:51.419 to go fastest.

A flurry of last-minute improvements saw the order change even further, with the two Münnich Motorsport Hondas going second and third fastest.

Nicky Catsburg was the best-placed of the Hyundais in fourth, just ahead of his BRC Racing team-mate Augusto Farfus.

Rob Huff’s time kept him sixth overall, eight-tenths off the pace, closely following by the PWR Racing Cupra TCR of Mikel Azcona.

The Cupra of Aurélien Panis, the Audi of Frederic Vervisch and the Volkswagen of Benjamin Leuchter completed the top ten.

The fastest of the Lynk & Cos, which had been maligned after this morning’s statement from Hyundai, was Yvan Muller in 12th, 1.1 seconds off the pace.

The second free practice session takes place at 09:00 CST tomorrow (03:00 CEST).