It's full speed ahead

It's full speed ahead

You need to be fit, focused and fearless to make it in Formula One, and Ma Qinghua has the drive to become China's first motor sport star, writesWong Yat-hei

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Ma Qinghua dreams of becoming the first Chinese Formula One racer.
Ma Qinghua dreams of becoming the first Chinese Formula One racer.
Photo: Edward Wong

Ma Qinghua became the first Chinese-born driver to win an FIA World Championship race last month, when he took first place at the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) Race of Russia.

The WTCC is generally seen as a training ground for future F1 stars.

Ma was a racing prodigy, dominating China's national karting championships at the age of 12.

"It was my childhood dream to be a racer," says the 26-year-old. "I hope my achievements will attract more people on the mainland to motor sports. I am looking forward to more races."

Ma, who competes for the Citroën Total WTCC team, has some big races coming up this year, including WTCC races in Beijing and Shanghai in October and the 61st Macau Grand Prix in November.

To prepare, he won't only be spending time in the driver's seat.

"Racing is an extremely physically demanding sport, so I spend a lot of time running and training in the weight room. I run 10 to 20 kilometres every day," he says.

Another challenge for a racer is to memorise the track, so you know exactly where to break and where to accelerate.

"The racer has to know the angle of every turn and the condition of the road by heart. [For example] the Nürburgring track in Germany is the longest racing track in the world, with more than 170 turns," he says.

"It will be tough to remember all the turns, but I am really looking forward to racing there next year."

Ma has been a test driver and back-up in Formula One, and appreciates it will be a big step up.

"In F1, there is a game plan that every driver has to follow. But in WTCC races, it is more about the driver reacting quickly to the situation. And of course F1 cars are much quicker," he says.

"Every racer dreams of F1, but right now my focus is on WTCC. I'm not surprised we haven't seen an F1 racer from the mainland yet because it is such a new sport here.

"We only hosted our first F1 race in 2004. In the past decade, there has been a huge increase in the number of racers on the mainland. We are catching up."

Of course Ma knows a thing or two about catching up - and overtaking - his rivals. But before fulfilling his F1 dream, he has a race in Macau to win.

"The Macau race is a city track, along narrow streets. I have never raced there so it is not going to be easy," he says

"But I'm not worried. When I am behind the wheel, I don't care about other racers or how tough the track is. I only care about being the first to pass the finish line."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
It's full speed ahead

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