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Historic victory for Rob Huff as Ma Qing Hua seals TCR China title

Rob Huff has become the first ever driver to win ten races at the Macau Guia circuit, having fended off Ma Qing Hua in a heavily-truncated opening race of the weekend.

Huff had claimed pole position in qualifying, but it was actually Ma who would lead into the first corner. However, Huff fought back immediately, and managed to restore his race lead before the cars had even reached Lisboa corner.

Behind them, the all-too-familiar first-lap pile-up ensued towards the back of the pack. Audi duo Michael Wong and Hu Heng came together through Mandarin Bend, while the unfortunate He Wei Hang, Mike Ng Chi Leung and Wong Chin Hung were all caught up in the incident too.

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Naturally, the safety car was swiftly deployed in order to give the nearby marshals a chance to recover the stricken vehicles.

Amidst the chaos, Rodolfo Ávila (Ma’s main rival for the TCR China Series title) was also in the wars on the opening lap. After a slow getaway, the Macanese driver dropped back and was involved in contact at Lisboa with Henry Lee Junior.

Despite that heart-in-mouth moment, Ávila did manage to survive the first lap in one piece, albeit having fallen from fifth to ninth.

Racing got back back underway after four laps behind the safety car, and Huff was eager to sprint away from the clutches of Ma.

Behind them, the second Lynk & Co was also looking aggressive as Filipe de Souza had to defend hard from Jason Zhang in the battle for third. This allowed the top two to scamper away from the rest of the pack, but it wasn’t long before the race was neutralised once more.

For the second time in as many green-flag laps, Ávila and Lee Junior came to blows, but on this occasion the MG stalwart’s luck run out. Having tried to fit two cars into a gap only big enough for one in the run up to Mourish Hill, Ávila was left with broken front-left suspension.

Due to the rear impact, Lee Junior’s Audi spun around on the spot, thus leading to a partial circuit blockage given the tight nature of the Guia circuit.

The red flags inevitably came out, resulting in a lengthy delay to proceedings. Eventually though, the race would get restarted again for a second time, but at this point it had been reduced to just a one-lap sprint.

In a repeat of the prior restart attempt, Huff was quick away from the front while Zhang immediately latched onto the back of de Souza’s car in an attempt to snatch third.

There was more drama behind though as Kevin Lam Ka Chun was pitched into the concrete wall at the penultimate bend. But out in front, Huff was untroubled en route to a historic victory.

Ma wouldn’t mind conceding this particular battle though, as second place would be enough to secure the 2020 TCR China Series championship following Ávila’s non-finish.

Zhang, meanwhile, was unable to breach de Souza’s defences in the second Teamwork Lynk & Co, and so the Macanese privateer would take the final step on the podium.

Sunny Wong stayed out of trouble and was rewarded with a top five finish, while Lo Sze Ho impressed once again in sixth having started the race from ninth on the grid.

Andy Yan and Zhang Zhen Dong picked up seventh and eighth places respectively for MG X-Power, and although the Anglo-Chinese marque will be ruing Ávila’s missed opportunity, this points haul would indeed be enough to secure the teams’ championship honours for 2020.

Eurico de Jesus came across the line in ninth place, while five seconds further back his MacPro Racing team-mate Ryan Wong completed the top ten.

The main Macau Guia Race gets underway on Sunday at 11:40 CST (03:40 GMT), with the starting grid decided by the finishing order of this first race. Huff will therefore start from pole again, and will undoubtedly be gunning for win number eleven.

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