MA Qing Hua took a brilliant victory on his one-off return in the TCR China Touring Car Championship this weekend at Zhuzhou, while a second-place on Saturday and seventh on Sunday keeps ZHANG Zhi Qiang in contention for the drivers’ title. Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing also leaves for Macau back in the lead of the all-important teams’ championship.
The team fielded an expanded five-car operation this weekend, with MA Qing Hua returning to the team for one race, and with Hong Kong star Aaron KWOK making his much antipicated debut in the Lynk & Co 03 TCR.
With 2020 TCR China champion MA rejoining the team, this meant that with 2018 champion Sunny WONG, 2021 TCR Asia champion ZHANG Zhi Qiang and 2022 champion David ZHU – Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing featured a five-star, four champions driver line-up at Zhuzhou.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang was the best-placed of the team’s drivers in a tricky qualifying session, which started wet and continued to dry out as the session continued. ZHANG qualified third, while ZHU and MA put their Lynk & Cos fifth and sixth on the grid for the first race.
WONG missed the cut to make Q2 after a problem on his run in the Pro-class Q1, while the session had started to dry by the start of the Am-class Q1 segment, which saw KWOK go an incredible fourth quickest, putting himself 17th overall on the combined grid, one spot ahead of WONG.
ZHANG, ZHU, and MA all made good starts, with ZHANG holding third and ZHU and MA up to fourth and fifth, while WONG was making quick progress from 18th on the grid.
Unfortunately KWOK was a non-starter and had to be wheeled into the pit lane.
The race was soon red-flagged due to a three-car incident at the first corner, which unfortunately involved the sister Fancy Teamwork Lynk & Co of Paul POON and two of the Hyundais.
After the restart, ZHANG, ZHU, and MA held station until the race began to heat up with five laps to go. MA found himself in a battle with one the Honda of Martin XIE, with the two drivers swapping position lap after lap. Eventually the Honda broke through and then also passed ZHU.
With two laps to go, ZHANG made a fantastic dive down the inside of the Hyundai of Martin CAO to take second at the Turn 5 chicane, with the Honda of XIE followed him through.
ZHU then made a move on CAO for fourth at Turn 11, but made contact with XIE just ahead, with both drivers’ races ruined.
In the melee, this allowed MA ahead of both ZHU and CAO and up to third.
ZHANG and MA would therefore fill second and third spots on the podium, while WONG had fought his way up from 18th to finish ninth, while ZHU would be classified in 19th.
With the top ten from qualifying reversed, former Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing driver ZHU Yuan Jie started from pole in the Fancy Teamwork entry, but made a slow start. MA took no time at all to get into the lead, bolting straight from fourth to second by Turn 1 before quickly passing Rainey HE’s Hyundai and began to build a gap.
ZHU had made a good start too and was up to third before the safety car was called on lap three, followed by a red flag to recover a stricken Audi.
When the race restarted, MA set about building his lead again, while ZHU held down third – meanwhile ZHANG was battling the Honda of Martin XIE for eighth, before he was pushed aside by one of the Hyundais and fell back.
Sunny WONG’s race came to an end on the way up to Turn 4 on lap nine, as an Audi drove across the nose of WONG’s 03 and they both crashed off into the barrier, with the Audi driver given a grid penalty at the next round as a consequence.
The race resumed after a long recovery, now as a two-lap sprint. MA again quickly pulled away from HE’s Hyundai, while ZHU made a great move down the inside at Turn 3 at the restart and was running side-by-side on the way past into second place, when HE turned in on ZHU, spinning him around and into retirement.
MA would go on to build a two-second gap in just two laps to win on his TCR China return, while ZHANG would finish the race seventh, with Aaron KWOK the only other classified finisher for the team in 26th.
The next round of the championship is the season finale at the epic Guia Circuit of Macau on November 16-19, where ZHANG goes in just 32 points behind the lead of the drivers’ championship.
Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing have retaken the lead of the teams’ championship by 18 points, with Lynk & Co just 21 points behind in the manufacturers’ standings, meaning it’s all to play for on the streets of Macau.
What the drivers said
ZHANG Zhi Qiang #36
I’m delighted to have finished on the podium in Race 1. It was a tough race and I was held up behind the Hyundai for a long time, but was eventually able to put on a good pass and score important points for both myself but also the team this weekend.
I head to Macau in the fight for the drivers’ championship, and I’ll do my absolute best.
It’ll be my fourth Macau, and I’m also looking for my fourth win there. I know the track, I know we have the potential to do very well, and we’ll be going all out for the win and all the titles we can get.
MA Qing Hua #155
It was fantastic to be back racing in TCR China with Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing, and I’m glad I was able to help them in the battle for the teams and manufacturers’ titles with a victory.
The first race I was able to wait and take the opportunities as they came and grabbed the podium, while in the second race, I just had to keep building my lead and control the pace.
The championship is now so much more competitive, it’s very different as I was mostly racing my team-mates before, but now the battles really tight with the other brands, which makes it all the more enjoyable.
David ZHU #1
It was a disappointing weekend for me here in Zhuzhou. We had good pace in qualifying, and I was set for a podium result but unfortunately I was involved in an incident which cost us key positions on Saturday, and that effectively unravelled my championship.
I had a small chance to recover in Sunday’s race – I’d made a fair move at Turn 3 for second place, but the other car just drove into the side of my car and took me out of the race.
Still, I’m now looking forward to Macau and aim to support the team’s title challenges.
Sunny WONG #12
It was a tough weekend. I couldn’t get the lap together in qualifying and so ended up very out of position for both races.
Race 1 was fun, I was able to fight my way up the order and back into the top ten to score some very useful points.
Unfortunately, the fight through to the top ten in the second race didn’t work out when one of the Audis just drove me straight off the track and into the barriers.
It was a sad end to the weekend – but now it’s all eyes forward and to focus on what we can do in Macau.