Thed Björk took a lights-to-flag victory in Race 1 at WTCR Race of China-Ningbo, but the action was frenetic behind the YMR driver as the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO put on a thrilling show at Ningbo International Speedpark on Saturday.
Björk converted his DHL Pole Position from the lights as ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri got the better of front row starter Frédéric Vervisch on the first lap to claim second. Audi Sport Team Comtoyou driver Vervisch withheld WTCR points leader Gabriele Tarquini to complete the podium.
The victory – his third of the season – completed a clean sweep for Björk’s Hyundai i30 N TCR at WTCR Race of China-Ningbo so far, having topped both free practice sessions, claimed the DHL Pole Position and conquered the first race.
“It feels so good to do it,” said the Swede. “The race was not so easy, but I felt in my body that I could win it. My little boy is at home with an ear infection, so he is fighting and this is for him.”
Björk made a perfect getaway at the start to claim a lead he would not lose, but Vervisch was under immediate pressure, with Guerrieri – fourth on the grid – pulling a convincing move for second place. Fellow second row starter Norbert Michelisz also passed the Audi RS 3 LMS, but the BRC Racing Team driver was soon in trouble and retired his smoking Hyundai on lap two.
His team-mate Tarquini, who started 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 P7, 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, finisihing 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 Mulsanne Srl 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 2. Zengő Motorsport’s Zsolt Szabó was another to be disappointed after qualifying an excellent sixth, retiring his Cupra TCR on lap three.
Ma Qing Hua finished his first WTCR race for Boutsen Ginion Racing in P19, just behind Fabrizio Giovanardi’s Alfa Romeo.
The second qualifying session for WTCR Race of China-Ningbo takes place at 09.00h local time on Sunday morning, with Race 2 scheduled to start at 14.20h.
Via FIA WTCR