Ma Qing Hua, the first Chinese driver to win an FIA world championship motor race, will make his debut in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO when action resumes in his homeland later this month.
The 30-year-old from Shanghai has been called up to drive a Honda Civic Type R TCR for Boutsen Ginion Racing, taking over the car campaigned in the first six events of the season by Belgian teenager Benjamin Lessennes.
After contesting WTCR Race of China-Ningbo from 28-30 September, Ma will remain with the team for the second part of the China double-header when he takes to the streets of Wuhan from 5-7 October.
“I am really happy to be racing in my home country with this new regulation car,” said Ma. “It’s really good to be in this series, even though I don’t know the car and have not had one lap at either of the circuits. I’m also jumping in at the middle of the season when everybody else will have a lot more experience than me. It will be tough with only two practice sessions before qualifying but I really enjoy fighting with drivers like Rob Huff, Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller and really enjoy the competition. I would like to thank everybody for this opportunity, I really appreciate it. I will take it step-by-step and do my best to finish the races to get the maximum track time possible.”
Olivia Boutsen, Boutsen Ginion Racing Team Manager, said: “It’s been a challenging first season in WTCR for us, but through three top-five finishes, we’ve shown that we can fight for good results at many circuits – a lot of which have been new to us. Ningbo and Wuhan are two more new tracks for the team, but we are excited about having a driver with Ma Qing Hua’s experience on board and look forward to welcoming him to our team.”
François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCR OSCARO promoter, said: “Ma proved his talent when he won WTCC Race of Russia on his debut in 2014. He played an important role in Citroën’s WTCC success and has also shown a great ability to be able to adapt to different cars in different disciplines at short notice, so I’m convinced it won’t be a problem for him to jump into the Honda Civic Type R TCR. While this is a great opportunity for Ma, it’s really good news that a top Chinese driver will be on the grid for the upcoming China double-header, which promises to be a real special occasion during the country’s Golden Week celebrations.”
As well as success in touring car racing, Ma was the first Chinese driver to take part in a Formula One weekend when joined HRT for Free Practice 1 at the Italian Grand Prix in 2012 in place of Narain Karthikeyan. He also has experience in FIA Formula E, A1 Grand Prix, British Formula 3, TCR Asia and China and has also tried FIA World Rallycross for size. His participation in WTCR OSCARO will make China country number 15 to be represented in the championship.
Ma will partner Dutchman Tom Coronel at Boutsen Ginion Racing. Lessennes will step back to his Test and Reserve Driver role, while Tiago Monteiro continues to push to return from injury to race before the end of the season.