Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing’s drivers Sunny WONG and ZHANG Zhi Qiang scored critical points in what was a damage limitation weekend for the team at Zhuzhou, while reigning champion David ZHU had a nightmare weekend with two zero scores.
It was clear from the start of practice that the Zhuzhou circuit didn’t favour the team’s Lynk & Co 03 TCRs, which were struggling with power due and a Balance of Performance disadvantage to its rivals. Despite this, the team put in a capable performance in qualifying, with ZHANG Zhi Qiang, Sunny WONG, and David ZHU qualifying in fourth, fifth and seventh positions, well inside the top ten.
There was also an impressive performance from Geely Group Motorsport Development Driver Program (GDDP) graduate ZHU Yuan Jie, rejoining the team this weekend and who topped the Am-class qualifying segment and put himself tenth on the grid, securing pole position for the reversed grid second race.
At the start of the first race, WONG made a rocket start and was straight up to third and was chasing down the leading duo, while ZHANG and ZHU were just behind, fighting to hold their positions.
With the track temperature well into the high 30s, tyre management was critical, and the drivers were all piling on the pressure at different points in the race.
WONG found himself in an epic battle with fellow Hong Kong driver Andy YAN’s Hyundai during the early stages of the race, with YAN getting ahead of WONG to provisionally grab the final podium spot at the Turn 11/12 chicane on lap four, before WONG then was able to dive back and retake the position on the following lap at Turn 5.
YAN was now starting to struggle, which allowed ZHANG Zhi Qiang to close in in his Lynk & Co and apply pressure, until they all became entangled in a battle at the chicane on lap nine with two other chasing Hyundais, with ZHANG losing pace and falling outside of the top ten.
ZHU had been biding his time but was now making up ground in the final laps, closing in on the Hyundai pack ahead until he suffered a front-right tyre blow out with five laps to go and was forced to retire.
With four laps to go, WONG dropped two spots but was able to hold off the fast-closing Honda of Jack YOUNG to keep fifth position.
ZHU Yuan Jie was the second-best placed driver for the team, driving through from 20th position to finish tenth, while ZHANG finished outside of the points in 14th.
ZHU Yuan Jie would start the race from pole position, and led the way into the first corner.
The race was soon stopped after a major incident involving the #1 car of David ZHU, after David was unable to get away from his grid position of fourth, and had to hope none of the 28 cars behind made contact.
Unfortunately, he was collected unsighted by one of the Am-class cars which launched itself over ZHU’s rear-left suspension, ripping off the whole upright, with the race immediately red-flagged, and the damage was too severe for ZHU to be able to make the restart.
At the restart, ZHU Yuan Jie led the way for four corners before he was pipped into a spin by the car behind and dropped to the back of the pack. ZHU continued to fight on, and was able to make his way back to finish sixth in the Am-class.
The race was soon aborted again after a two-car incident saw the barriers damaged and a driver requiring medical assistance.
A final attempt to get the race going resulted in just five green flag laps. WONG dropped in behind ZHANG and the two drivers controlled the pace in the few remaining laps to finish the race in fourth and fifth position.
It was a challenging weekend for the team, and the team found itself involved in a couple of unnecessary incidents with ZHU Yuan Jie and David ZHU, but there were still good race performances with two of the team’s cars finishing in the top ten in both races, scoring useful points in the championship.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang is now third in the drivers’ championship, with David ZHU just seven points behind him at the half-way point of the season.
Lynk & Co has dropped to second in the models’ championship, but Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing remain in the lead of the teams’ championship by six points.
The team will now use the summer break to regroup before the season starts again on September 8-10 at Shanghai.
What the drivers said
David ZHU #1
It was a weekend to forget for me really. We qualified well and we were in a position to score some good points, and with the dramas in the second race we could probably have held onto a top five finish.
Unfortunately, I had a puncture in the first race while well within the top ten, and then in the second race when I had a problem at the start, I was hit hard by a car that didn’t see me and that was my race over.
Hopefully we’ve got all of our bad luck for the year out of the way in just this weekend.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang #36
It was a tough weekend, but you have to have these weekends sometimes to appreciate the good ones.
With the handling issue I had in the first race, I was just glad to be able to make the finish. We tried a few things and were able to improve our pace in little there was of the second race given all the incidents, and was able to score some key points.
To come away with the lead of the teams’ standings and for me to be third in the drivers’ after a challenging weekend like this isn’t too bad a feeling.
Sunny WONG #12
I actually had a few exciting races and battles today. While we didn’t have the pace for the win, we were fighting around the podium positions for both of the races, and we were able to fight well with the other cars with a pretty progressive set-up.
To come away with two top ten finishes and score enough points to keep the lead of the teams’ standings is a great feeling.
Now for a short break and we’ll come back fighting for the last three rounds.