Ma Qing Hua claimed his first race win since joining the FIA World Touring Car Cup in the third and final race at the Slovakia Ring, fending off a race-long challenge from BRC Racing Hyundai’s Norbert Michelisz.
Ma’s teammate Kevin Ceccon completed the podium, giving the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo squad its fourth podium finish of the weekend following Ma’s second place in Race 1 and Ceccon’s third place in Race 2.
As he did in Race 1, Ma rocketed away from third on the grid and slotted into the lead at Turn 1, jumping pole-sitter Nicky Catsburg and Michelisz’s Hyundais which had locked out the front row.
The opening lap was again a frenetic affair, with championship leader and Race 2 winner Néstor Girolami coming off worse as the pack swung through the high-speed Turn 2. The Argentine was run into the gravel and dropped to the back of the field when he accidentally activated his pit lane speed limiter while his Münnich Motorsport Honda bounced through the run-off.
On Lap 5, Catsburg appeared to strike trouble, with his Hyundai suffering an intermittent problem that saw the Dutch driver cede second place to Michelisz and shortly after he lost third place to Ceccon.
Catsburg continued to fall down the order, losing positions to Niels Langeveld’s Comtoyou Audi, Esteban Guerrieri’s Münnich Motorsport Honda and the PWR Racing Cupras of Mikel Azcona and Daniel Haglöf in quick succession.
Haglöf also began to lose ground and fell back into the clutches of the battle for tenth place between Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Rob Huff and Hyundai driver Gabriele Tarquini. Approaching Turn 3, the Swede suffered a huge lock-up and ran into the back of Huff’s VW Golf and the Comtoyou Cupra of Tom Coronel – who was staging a charge up the field similar to Race 2 – which led to Coronel getting a puncture.
Up at the front, Michelisz was sandwiched between Ma and Ceccon, trying to attack the former and defend from the latter. He managed to draw alongside Ma on the run to Turn 3, but Ma doggedly held the inside line to fend off the Hungarian and deny him his first victory of the season.
The top-three finished in that order, crossing the line covered by just six-tenths of a second. Michelisz’s second place helped to vault him to third in the Drivers’ Championship standings behind Girolami and Guerrieri.
Langeveld earned his third points’ finish on the trot and his best result of the season with a fine fourth, while Azcona was the best-placed Cupra in fifth.
Guerrieri finished in sixth and with teammate Girolami failing to score he closes in to sit just two points behind his Argentine compatriot and teammate at the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Augusto Farfus (BRC Racing Hyundai) crossed the line in seventh ahead of Aurélien Panis (Comtoyou Cupra), with the Hyundais of Gabriele Tarquini and wildcard entrant Luca Engstler completing the top ten finishers.
In what was a disastrous weekend for the Lynk & Co runners, Thed Björk was the best-placed of the Cyan Racing quartet in eleventh.
The next round of the championship takes place at Zandvoort next weekend.
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Slovakia – Race 3 Final Classification (11 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||11||24:27.427||25|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||11||+ 0.242||20|
|3.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||11||+ 0.694||16|
|4.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||11||+ 11.818||13|
|5.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||11||+ 12.413||11|
|6.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||11||+ 13.536||10|
|7.||Augusto Farfus||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||11||+ 14.116||9|
|8.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||11||+ 16.833||8|
|9.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||11||+ 16.963||7|
|10.||Luca Engstler (WC)||Hyundai Team Engstler||11||+ 17.997|
|11.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||11||+ 20.247||6|
|12.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||11||+ 20.483||5|
|13.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||11||+ 22.259||4|
|14.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||11||+ 23.749||3|
|15.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||11||+ 25.427||2|
|16.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||11||+ 25.724||1|
|17.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||11||+ 26.041|
|18.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||11||+ 26.398|
|19.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||11||+ 28.218|
|20.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||11||+ 28.402|
|21.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||11||+ 31.706|
|22.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||11||+ 34.320|
|23.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||11||+ 35.050|
|24.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||11||+ 57.914|
|25.||Attila Tassi||KCMG||11||+ 1:14.131|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Daniel Haglöf||PWR Racing||10||Collision|
|DNF.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||3||Collision|
- The top fifteen classified finishers (excluding wildcard entries) and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 25-20-16-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
Images via FIA WTCR Media