*Cyan Racing-run Frenchman grabs first DHL Pole Position of 2019 *Home hero Ma Qinghua second quickest, Azcona is best Ningbo rookie in third *Michelisz out-paces WTCR / OSCARO title leader Guerrieri for fourth position *Five different car brands fill first five slots in super-tight session
FIA WTCR Race of China: First Qualifying report
WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO 2019
Rounds 19, 20 and 21 of 30, Ningbo International Speedpark, 13-15 September
Lynk & Co-powered Yvan Muller clinched the DHL Pole Position for Race 1 at WTCR Race of China after a super-tight qualifying session at the Ningbo International Speedpark, as less than a second separated the top 21 cars.
The Cyan Racing driver set a time of 1m50.848s to pip home-race hero Ma Qinghua to the top spot by a scant 0.050s.
Muller was especially delighted to take his first DHL Pole Position of the year at Chinese manufacturer Lynk & Co’s home circuit. “The first part of the job is done, now we have to confirm it in the race,” said the Frenchman. “It will be difficult to overtake, but anything can happen. It will be an interesting race.”
Team Mulsanne driver Ma was pleased with his effort in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR despite reporting some understeer. “That was a really good qualifying,” he said. “The lap was comfortable. It was not perfect, but it’s difficult to be perfect at Ningbo.”
Free Practice 2 pacesetter and Ningbo rookie Mikel Azcona was third fastest in his PWR Racing CUPRA TCR, ahead of Norbert Michelisz (BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse i30 N TCR) – and with SLR Volkswagen’s Johan Kristoffersson next up in his Golf GTI TCR, that made it five car brands in the top five positions.
Nicky Catsburg – whose Hyundai is running a new engine this weekend – was sixth, with Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing’s Aurélien Panis sandwiched between the BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team driver and his team-mate Augusto Farfus.
WTCR / OSCARO points leader Esteban Guerrieri was next in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR, but will take a three-place grid penalty in Race 1 following his clash with Catsburg at the last event in Portugal. PWR Racing’s Daniel Haglöf completed the top 10 ahead of Niels Langeveld, Andy Priaulx, Thed Björk, Kevin Ceccon and Frédéric Vervisch.
Néstor Girolami, who qualified P18 behind Yann Ehrlacher and Rob Huff, was hampered by a throttle issue. Mehdi Bennani and fellow Volkswagen-powered driver Benjamin Leuchter rounded out the top 20 ahead of Tiago Monteiro, Jean-Karl Vernay, Gabriele Tarquini, Attila Tassi, Tom Coronel and Gordon Shedden.
Race 1 at WTCR Race of China takes place at 15h40 local time with live global broadcasts.