Bjork claims lights-to-flag win
Thed Björk claimed a lights-to-flag victory in the first race at Ningbo. Swedish driver converted his pole position in his third win of the WTCR season. The victory completed a clean sweep for Björk’s Hyundai i30 N TCR, having also topped both free practice sessions.
Björk made a perfect getaway at the start to claim a lead he would not lose. Esteban Guerrieri got the better of front row starter Frédéric Vervisch on the first lap to claim second. Fellow second row starter Norbert Michelisz also passed the Audi RS 3 LMS, but the BRC Racing Team driver was soon in trouble with powersteering failure and retired on lap two.
Gabriele Tarquini, starting ninth after a five-place grid penalty earned at the previous round, made strong early progress and closed in on Vervisch towards the end of the 13-lap race, but could not get close enough to make a move for the podium.
The Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRs of Mehdi Bennani and Rob Huff ran nose-to-tail throughout to claim fifth and sixth. Huff made a number of radio calls requesting his team-mate be moved aside, but Bennani was allowed to race and held off the British driver to the flag.
Björk’s team-mate and boss Yvan Muller rose from P13 on the grid to finish in seventh, ahead of his nephew Yann Ehrlacher in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR. Comtoyou Audi pair Denis Dupont and Aurélien Panis battled hard for P9, finishing in that order to complete the top 10.
Double DTM champion Timo Scheider just missed out on WTCR points on his front-wheel drive touring car debut with a strong P11 for ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, having started in P18. Kevin Ceccon was P12 in his Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR.
Team OSCARO by Campos Racing’s Pepe Oriola came home in P13, ahead of a frustrated Gordon Shedden. But the Scot’s Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay faired even worse, pulling off into retirement on lap two due to driveshaft failure. Zengő Motorsport’s Zsolt Szabó was another to be disappointed after qualifying an excellent seventh, retiring his Cupra TCR with damage on lap three.
China’s Ma Qing Hua finished his first WTCR race for Boutsen Ginion Racing in P19, just behind Fabrizio Giovanardi’s Alfa Romeo, having suffered early contact.