Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing had a strong weekend at the second round of the 2023 TCR China championship at the Zhejiang International Circuit, with ZHANG Zhi Qiang claiming victory in Race 1, while David ZHU secured a podium in Race 2 and keeps the lead of the drivers’ championship.
The weekend started well, with team showing great pace during testing and free practice. However, the conditions changed dramatically from the second practice session, with the rain arriving at the Hangzhou circuit, and then it never relented throughout the rest of the weekend.
The team adapted to the conditions to develop a strategy for qualifying which worked perfectly to get all three drivers into the all-important Q2 segment, with ZHANG Zhi Qiang setting the second quickest time, David ZHU seventh, and Sunny WONG just on the bubble in 12th.
Unfortunately, with the conditions so treacherous, and with two red flags in the Amateur group’s Q1 segment, the rest of qualifying was called off and so it was the times from Q1 which set the grid.
This didn’t work out too badly for ZHANG, as the driver who’d been fastest in qualifying was due to serve a grid penalty, which promoted ZHANG to pole position for the first race on Saturday morning.
The conditions were so bad that the race had to be started behind the safety car. When the cars were released on lap four, ZHANG led the way from pole position and began to break away from the pack, while ZHU made an immediate dive on the Hyundai ahead of him and moved up to fourth place.
ZHU was now embroiled in an intense battle to hold his position, whilst also trying to get in front of the car ahead to take third, before two cars crashed out on lap seven, causing the safety car to be called back into action again.
The recovery took some time, and the conditions were considered so dangerous that the race was never restarted, with ZHANG doing a fantastic job to control the car in these conditions to claim his first win of the year, with ZHU fourth and Sunny WONG finishing in 13th.
Geely Group Motorsport Development Driver Program debutant GENG Rui was caught out by the conditions and spun around at lap five, but luckily was able to avoid any damage and went on to finish in 29th.
The conditions slightly improved for the second race, but only just. The Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing cars weren’t well-placed for the reversed grid heat, with ZHU starting fourth and ZHANG in ninth, and WONG again 12th.
Nevertheless, ZHU was again making quick progress, immediately passing the Hyundai of Max HART for third at Turn 3 when the race started on lap three, and then was involved in a fight with Andy YAN’s Hyundai for second place. ZHU was finally able to make his way past just as the safety car was called on lap six, and had to hand the spot back.
At the restart, ZHU lost a spot to one of the Hondas, but was quickly back attacking YAN’s car, making an incredible move around the Turn 13 hairpin with two laps to go – the two previous champions gave each other racing room as they went side-by-side for four corners, before ZHU finally completed the pass on the way down into Turn 1 on the following lap, securing the final podium spot.
ZHU finished the race third, while ZHANG finished in seventh, and WONG 12th.
GDDP driver GENG Rui had a much better run in the second race and finished in 18th position.
ZHU leaves the weekend with the lead of the drivers’ championship, seven points clear of team-mate ZHANG.
Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing leads the teams’ championship on 125 points, with a 19-point margin, while Lynk & Co has a four-point lead in the models’ standings.
The next round of the TCR China championship takes place at the Zhuzhou International Circuit on July 7-9.
What the drivers said
David ZHU #1
I’m delighted to be still leading the championship after what was a very challenging weekend given the conditions.
We lost out a little on track position in qualifying when the session was cut short, so to make up some places and score some good points was the goal on race day.
I had some amazing battles, especially with Andy YAN in the second race. A podium and the points lead is good end to the weekend.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang #36
I’m delighted to have been able to take the win today at Zhejiang, in some of the most difficult conditions I’ve ever driven in.
While they say it’s easy to be the leader in these conditions, you’re also the first to come across every new puddle or stream, all while fighting to keep over 30 cars behind you!
It was a fantastic weekend with the win and good points in the second race, which helps keeps us 1-2 in the drivers’ and the lead of the teams’ and models’ trophies which is the main thing.
Sunny WONG #12
It’s been an exciting weekend to say the least. We didn’t come here expecting a fully wet race weekend, and while the car was good in the wet, I was unfortunate given there was no Q2 so I was stuck outside of the top ten fighting for positions.
To keep the car on circuit in these conditions is an achievement in itself. I had some excellent battles, and if we’d had more green flag laps we’d have definitely been able to score some points, but the safety cars were perfectly understandable given the conditions.
GENG Rui #492
To make my TCR debut in these circumstances was quite a challenge. I’m happy to have made the finish and kept the car in one piece.
The Lynk & Co 03 TCR is an amazing car, and I was able to make good progress in race two and get involved in some good battles.
Thanks to Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing and Geely Group Motorsport for this amazing opportunity, and I can’t wait to be back on track again.