Ma wins in first WTCC weekend
World Touring Car Championship newcomer Ma Qing Hua achieved a remarkable reversed-grid win on his first outing of 2014 at Moscow Raceway.
The former Caterham and HRT Friday practice Formula 1 driver held off a charging performance from teammate Yvan Muller to take victory by just 1.1sec, becoming the first Chinese driver to win in the WTCC.
After suffering a run of reliability troubles that has disrupted his progress over several race weekends earlier this season, Mehdi Bennani claimed his first podium of the season for Proteam Honda.
Polesitter Hugo Valente, who was an innocent party when he was harpooned out of race one by Campos teammate Dusan Borkovic, appeared in control in the early stages in his patched-up Cruze. But the Frenchman was handed a drive-through penalty owing to the failure of his team to secure a wheel before the five minute board was displayed.
In a furious fight at the front, Ma exchanged positions on at least three occasions with Norbert Michelisz at the final corner. The pair, second and third on the road, effectively disputed the lead owing to Valente's impending drive-through.
Citroen driver Ma had repeatedly marginally compromised his exit of the last turn, allowing fast-starter Michelisz the opportunity to counter attack, but on lap six Ma successfully secured the lead.
From fifth on the grid, Muller produced an aggressive drive and was in the thick of the action throughout. After running side-by side with teammate Sebastien Loeb at the first corner, Muller was sent sideways after receiving a tap – possibly from Bennani. Thereafter, Muller knuckled down to make progress from his opening lap position of ninth.
Muller gained one position when Tiago Monteiro knocked Tom Chilton sideways at Turn 3 and out of seventh, before bullying passed two Hondas in one maneuver on lap six.
The JAS Honda of Gabriele Tarquini retired with power steering problems, and teammate Tiago Monteiro was also forced to park prematurely with apparent technical trouble.
Muller demoted Michelisz from second on lap eight, but despite taking 2.3s out of Ma's lead, the Alsace racer had to be content with second. The result closes Muller to 41 points behind championship leader Jose Maria Lopez's 209-point tally in the drivers' standings.
Race one winner Lopez posted his first retirement of the season after suffering a gearbox-related problem on the grid.
Results - 16 laps
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Ma Qing Hua Citroen 27m11.31s 2. Yvan Muller Citroen +1.261s 3. Mehdi Bennani Proteam Honda +12.252s 4. Tom Coronel ROAL Chevrolet +12.424s 5. Sebastien Loeb Citroen +14.725s 6. Tom Chilton ROAL Chevrolet +14.890s 7. Norbert Michelisz Zengo Honda +15.118s 8. Gianni Morbidelli Munnich Chevrolet +19.894s 9. Hugo Valente Campos Chevrolet +20.157s 10. Rene Munnich Munnich Chevrolet +20.984s 11. Dusan Borkovic Campos Chevrolet +26.813s 12. James Thompson Lada +31.686s 13. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW +1m03.478s 14. Pasquale Di Sabatino Engstler BMW +1m15.84s3 15. John Filippi Campos SEAT -1 lap 16. Nikita Misiulia Campos SEAT -1 lap Not classified/retirements Tiago Monteiro Honda 11 laps Rob Huff Lada 10 laps Gabriele Tarquini Honda 7 laps Jose Maria Lopez Citroen 0 laps Mikhail Kozlovskiy Lada 0 laps
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