Ma Qing Hua was pleased to score his first podium for Team Mulsanne in the first FIA World Touring Car Cup race in Slovakia, even though the Alfa Romeo driver lost the lead in the first half of the race.
Ma started from third on the grid but got a better start than the two Hyundai drivers on the front row, allowing the Chinese driver to lead into the first corner.
However, Ma was unable to keep a charging Frédéric Vervisch at bay and on lap five the Audi driver made a clean move for the lead, demoting Ma to second.
Nevertheless, the 31-year-old was able to hold on to the podium finish and score the team’s first podium of the year, and his first in WTCR.
“First of all, thanks to the team and their hard work,” said Ma. “For us it was really difficult when we arrived in Barcelona.
“This was my first time to touch my race car this year, so the time was really tight. With such time we didn’t have the chance to try many things, so there is still quite a lot we don’t know on the technical side of the car.
“Every race in the first two events we were testing a little bit and trying something. It was really hard because in a race weekend you take the risks and you need to fight at the same time, so it’s not easy.
“I’m really happy to find a good direction to improve the car and also myself, to be in the right window.”
Ma had to tackle unknown conditions at the start of the race, which began on slick tyres on a drying circuit – something which made him more cautious as the race progressed.
“We had a really good qualifying on Friday and today I made a mega start to be in front, then the situation was really difficult because for me the track was really unknown, so I tried to push but not too crazy.
“In the end I think we did a really good race and I finished second. This is the first podium for our team this season and I am really happy.
“We still have two races to go this afternoon, so we need to keep our heads down.”
Ma will start the reverse-grid race two (15:15 CEST, 14:15 BST) from eighth on the grid, before starting race three from third – the same position he started race one.