Ma Qing Hua was pleased to secure third in both of Friday’s FIA World Touring Car Cup qualifying sessions at the Slovakiaring, as he secured the best grid position of the year for the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Ma was four tenths slower than Nicky Catsburg in the first qualifying session, which was held on a dry circuit.
In the afternoon’s second qualifying session, Ma then made it all the way through to Q3 before securing third on the grid for the final race of the weekend, once again just over four tenths off the pace behind Catsburg and Hyundai team-mate Norbert Michelisz.
The Chinese driver admitted that it had been a difficult start to the season for the Italian team, but he believes that Team Mulsanne are continuing to make good progress with the car.
“It’s been a difficult season start for us,” said Ma. “We haven’t had a chance to do a lot of testing, so basically the Barcelona testing was only the shakedown for us, so unfortunately we don’t have much of a data base.
“Also, for me it’s a new team, a new car, a new season, everything is quite new, so we started in a bit of a rush, but through the last two races I think we’ve learnt a lot and taken a lot of positive things from the race to race.
“We come to here today and in the free practice sessions it was very positive, and I found a good balance on the car.
“In qualifying we put the good things from the free practice sessions together and it seems to work. It’s not perfect, but we are going in the right direction.
“We still have a lot of work to do. The car has potential but it’s difficult to make everything be perfect, so we’ve got to keep our heads down and keep working hard to catch the guys at the front.”
Ma admitted that in the one-lap shootout in Q3 he had to use his confidence in order to extract the most out of the car on a circuit which was still drying from an earlier rain shower.
“My lap was good; it was a really difficult qualifying, because the conditions changed hugely. I really wanted to use the cojones in my pocket to decide how I can perform in this lap.
“I think the track improved again in Q3 – I tried to maintain everything in my hands, but it was difficult.
“We still have something to go, but it’s just one shot, so you don’t have the time to think too much.
“But anyway, I think it’s a good starting position again. I’m really positive for the race and I think they [Catsburg and Michelisz] are not going to have it easy because I am behind!”