ZHANG Zhi Qiang claimed a third straight Macau victory on Sunday at Macau, holding off Macau master Rob Huff for a thrilling victory in a weekend where Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing secured the drivers’, teams’, and model’s titles in this year’s TCR Asia series.
The team fared well in qualifying, with championship leader David ZHU qualifying in second position with ZHANG Zhi Qiang third in a twice-interrupted qualifying session – with the rival MG team having drafted in Macau expert Huff who secured pole position.
Unfortunately the second red flag in qualifying was caused by an off for Sunny WONG, who was therefore relegated to a lowly 14th place on the grid for the weekend’s two races.
ZHU and ZHANG held station at the start of Saturday’s race, while WONG made a incredible launch in his Lynk & Co 03 TCR, and was up to fifth place coming out of the Lisboa corner and close behind his two team-mates.
A lap later and WONG was up to third after the MG ahead dived on ZHANG’s Lynk & Co at Lisboa, which allowed WONG through as ZHANG was slowed at the exit.
The MG later dropped back leaving all three of Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing’s cars in line behind Huff’s car, where they’d stay to the finish. ZHU’s second place allowed him to extend his series points lead, with WONG finishing on the podium after a close fight with team-mate ZHANG all the way until the end.
The team also secured the models’ trophy on Saturday, with no other manufacturer’s car now able to overtake the Lynk & Co 03 TCR in the points table.
For Sunday’s partially reversed grid race, ZHANG was third and ZHU fourth by the end of the first lap, while WONG had made good progress again and was up to ninth in the TCR class. Unfortunately WONG’s race came to an end early on at the start of lap two, as he crashed out at the reservoir bend, which saw an early safety car deployment.
Just before the safety car, ZHANG had moved past one of the MGs and was now in second, just as confirmation came that the leading car, the privateer Lynk & Co of YAN Chuang ahead of him, was to receive a jump start penalty.
At the restart, ZHANG quickly overtook YAN on the road at the Mandarin bend and began to build a lead to be ready for the real threat of the race – Rob Huff, who was battling his way up the order.
With two laps to go, Huff was now up to second place and chasing down ZHANG, but the Chinese driver managed to cover off Huff’s challenge perfectly, defending into Lisboa as Huff made one final attack on the last lap and keeping the MG at bay. ZHANG went on to win by just over a second, with David ZHU picking up critical points for his championship with fourth.
The great results for Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing mean it’s now secured the teams’ championship, and is now also assured one of the team’s drivers will be the 2022 drivers’ champion, with only ZHU (168 points), ZHANG (152 points), and WONG (130 points), in mathematical contention going into the season finale at the Shanghai International Circuit on December 3-4.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang #19
RACE 9: P4 | RACE 10: P1
“I’m delighted with my third Macau victory this weekend, and it’s a fantastic result for us to have already secured the championship titles with a race to spare.
“I’m especially proud to have been able to beat ‘the master’ Rob Huff at Macau on the road, and shown the true potential of myself and the team, against a world championship-level driver.
“It’s not over yet though, and I’m sure it’ll be a thrilling finale to the championship at Shanghai for the drivers’ title with my two team-mates.”
Sunny WONG #12
RACE 9: P3 | RACE 10: DNF
“It’s been a mixed weekend, I’m very upset with myself for the accidents in qualifying and on Sunday, but Macau can bite sometimes. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved as a team this year, and also for the performance I was able to show on Saturday, securing a podium and being able to share it with my friend and former team-mate Rob Huff.
“To be going into the finale still in contention for the championship is incredible, and I’m just looking forward to enjoying the end of fantastic season for the team and I.”
David ZHU #9
RACE 9: P2 | RACE 10: P4
“It’s been brilliant weekend for the team to win all three titles, and for me to be able to finish on the podium on my first time racing at this incredible circuit, where my team-mates and most of my rivals have far more experience at one of the world’s toughest tracks.
“For me, it was able staying out of trouble and I did just that, and now have a good lead in the championship going to Shanghai, where we already know we’re going to be able to celebrate in style.”