Photo: Macau Grand Prix

Ma Qing Hua grabs pole position for Macau qualifying race

Teamwork Motorsport Lynk & Co’s Ma Qing Hua left it late to claim pole position for the opening TCR Asia race of the weekend at Macau.

The former World Touring Car Cup driver posted a best time of 2:31.545 at the end of what proved to be a stop-start session.

Local driver Filipe de Souza was second fastest in his Sonic Racing Team Audi RS 3 LMS, having led the way for much of the 20-minute session.

He finished 1.478s adrift of Qing Hua at the end, with Andy Yan putting in a final-second improvement to grab third in his Team TRC Honda Civic Type-R TCR.

With 30 cars on the entry list, traffic was always going to play a crucial role in the outcome of the qualifying session, and it proved to be the case early doors as several cars had their lap-times impacted by bottlenecks around the tight and twisty 6.2km circuit.

The first casualty of the session was the Honda Civic of Jason Wang, who spun wildly at Police before sliding off into the barriers at Moorish corner, bringing out the red flags with 13 minutes remaining.

That had bigger implications for the rest of the field who had only completed one fast lap until that point.

De Souza was the fastest by the time the session was stopped, while Ma languished somewhat in sixth.

As the session resumed, defending Macau Guia Race winner and current TCR Asia points leader Jason Zhang was the first to get a lap time in, and looked like snatching pole away from de Souza after going fastest in the first two sectors.

But the Lynk & Co driver just missed out by a quarter of a second at the end of the lap, slotting into second.

Then it was the turn of Ma, who put together a clean lap towards the end of the session to usurp de Souza and take pole position. A late effort from Yan while the rest of the runners were on their cool-down lap brought him up to third, and demoting Zhang to fourth.

Sunny Wong made it three Lynk & Co cars in the top five with the fifth fastest time, ahead of the Z-Challenger Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR of Lo Sze Ho and Team TRC Honda’s Tang Chi Lun.

Z Speed León TCR driver Yang Xiao Wei was eighth fastest, ahead of Huang Chu Han’s Newfaster Audi RS 3 LMS, with Wu Yifan rounding out the top ten in his 326 Racing Audi. All three ended up just over six seconds down on Qing Hua.

The eight-lap qualifying race is scheduled to take place on Saturday at 14:55 local time (07:55 CET).