David ZHU scored a podium in the opening race in what was a hard-fought weekend for the team as the TCR China championship returned to the Shanghai International Circuit. Strong points scored by ZHU and team-mate ZHANG Zhi Qiang in both races ensure both drivers remain right in the hunt for the drivers’ title.
After practice it was apparent the team’s Lynk & Co 03 TCRs were not going to be able to compete right at the front this weekend due to a straight-line speed deficit. The team pulled out all the stops in qualifying, and ZHU qualified a brilliant sixth considering, while the perfect strategy was executed for ZHANG Zhi Qiang, who placed his car tenth on the grid, securing the reversed grid pole for Race 2.
Unfortunately Sunny WONG just missed the cut-off for Q2 and so qualified 13th for both races, while development driver GENG Rui qualified a competitive 17th in only his second race meeting for the team.
ZHU had an excellent start and launched himself from sixth to third by the first corner. ZHANG kept out of trouble on the first lap, and staying out of trouble proved to be the key to the race as there were several incidents involving rival cars within the top ten over the course of the race.
A clash at the hairpin right ahead of ZHANG on lap two took out two of the Hyundais, with ZHANG able to stay out the way and move up two places before a long safety car intervention.
When the race resumed with just two laps to go, another battle ahead saw three cars collide and hand ZHANG the perfect opportunity to pass all of them down the inside, so he made his way all the way up to fifth position by the chequered flag.
ZHU ran the whole race in a comfortable third place, unable to make any gains on the two cars ahead due to the clear performance deficit, and so secured a brilliant podium finish.
Sunny WONG recovered from a bad start to finish in 14th, while GENG Rui was unfortunately a first lap casualty.
ZHANG started from pole position, but was mobbed into the first corner by the two Hyundais behind and was down to third.
ZHU and WONG had fantastic starts, but unfortunately WONG was indirectly the cause of the first safety car after he was hit by an independent Audi driver on the first lap and taken out of the race.
After the restart, ZHU was lining up a pass on ZHANG Zhen Dong’s Hyundai at Turn 3, but was run out wide in the fight and hit the dust on the exit, losing grip and momentarily control of his 03 TCR and collided with Jack Young’s Honda.
ZHU was able to continue with only a damaged bonnet and finished the race in seventh.
ZHANG was fighting hard to keep the chasing pack behind, but he was attacked at the hairpin on the final lap and passed by a Hyundai and a forceful pass by one of the Audis. The Audi driver received a penalty for the incident, redressing the situation and placing ZHANG back in fourth.
After Shanghai, ZHANG is third in the drivers’ championship, with ZHU just eight points behind him, with both drivers in realistic contention for the title with still four races left to go at Zhuzhou and Macau.
The Lynk & Co 03 is second in the models’ classification, while Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing is only one point behind the leader in the teams’ title, heading to the next round at the Zhuzhou International Circuit on October 28-29.
What the drivers said
David ZHU #1
I’m very happy to have scored a podium in what was a very tough weekend for us.
We don’t have the pace to our rivals here, which is difficult to explain. It affected all the cars, and it was clear to see we were mostly defending not fighting, which is not how it should be. Hopefully things will be better before we return to Zhuzhou.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang #36
I think I had a great weekend considering, fourth and fifth I think was the best that was on the table, and scoring points in weekends like this is critical. It keeps us right up there in the title battles, and we have a bit of a break now to get ready for our return to Zhuzhou.
Sunny WONG #12
This was a tough weekend, we didn’t get the maximum in qualifying and that put us in a dangerous position in the races. It was tough to fight forwards in Race 1, especially after my start.
I had a much better start in Race 2 and points were definitely there to be had before I was just taken out of the race. It’s a shame, but we’ll regroup and come back fighting.