Ma Qing Hua has extended his TCR China championship lead after taking his fourth win of the year in the first race at Tianma, and a strong second place in a close battle in the second race.
Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Motorsport enjoyed a competitive Round 3 of the season, with a first and second place for Ma Qing Hua in the two races at the Shanghai Tianma circuit.
After a highly successful start to the season at Zhuzhou, the team headed into the weekend with a hefty weight handicap. Despite this, Ma Qing Hua was able to produce a stunning lap on his final run in the 30-minute qualifying session to put his 03 TCR third on the grid, right in the midst of three MGs, while Yang Xi qualified 11th on the grid.
In the first race on Saturday, when the lights went out, Ma catapulted off of the second row and darted in between the first two MGs and was leading into the first corner, while there was carnage behind, as the MGs of Rodolfa Avila and Rainey He came together.
Yang managed to keep out of all the first corner trouble and found himself fourth by the end of the first lap, when the safety car was brought out to clear up the mess.
When the race resumed, there was no stopping Ma, who pulled out a six-second lead on Zhang Zhen Dong's MG to take his fourth win of the season, while Yang Xi unfortunately retired soon after the restart with a power steering issue.
In the second race on Sunday morning, Ma again had a lightning start from fourth on the partially reversed grid, but with the two Audis blocking the way ahead, he had to take to the inside and couldn't quite get ahead of the pole-sitting Audi of Wu Yifan yet.
Unfortunately, the MG of Rodolfo Avila was able to get past Ma in the busy opening laps, and when the two drivers were eventually able to get by the Audi, an epic chase ensued, with Ma scrapping with Avila's MG for the lead for almost the whole race.
Neither driver would give any quarter though, and the racing was tough, but also clean. In the end Ma would have to settle for second, crossing the line just two-tenths of a second behind Avila.
Yang Xi had a consistent run and was able to pick up key points for the team with sixth, after starting on the final row.
Ma Qing Hua said:
"I'm really happy with the my performance, and how we've worked this weekend. We pulled out a great lap in qualifying when it counted, and then it all came down to the start. I managed to get straight into the lead, and from then on just laid down quick laps and tried to manage the tyres.
"The car was perfect, and it was a great victory. In Race 2, I had another great start but had nowhere to go with Wu right in front of me. The battle with Rodolfo was great fun, I just kept with him for a few laps and hoped he'd just make a mistake, but when it was clear he wasn't going to make one I had to turn up the pressure a little bit and got into some good touring car racing.
"Unfortunately, we weren't able to win this one, but no one could say I didn't try. What's important was to keep scoring points for the championship, and though we're in a good place, we're only halfway through the season, so there's still a long way to go."
Yang Xi said:
"It was a tough start, but it's great to be back with Teamwork Motorsport again, and to be driving this awesome car in the Lynk & Co 03 TCR.
"We just couldn't find the pace in qualifying, but in the first race I managed to stay out of all the trouble at the start and keep it on the track and were straight up to fourth and things were looking good until we had the power steering issue. _ "I tried to do the same in Race 2, unfortunately there were fewer mistakes up front, so sixth was the best we could manage, but it was good points for the team, and I can't wait to be behind the wheel again next week at Jiangsu."_
Paul Hui, team principal, said:
"We're really happy with our results this weekend. We're leaving Tianma, which is a very unique circuit, with an extended lead in the drivers' championship. First and second is a result no one should sniff at, especially now that compensation weight has come into play.
"We do have very tough competition this year, so we have to bring our 'A game'. Our rivals have invested heavily with a four car, pro driver operation, and therefore have more chances to score points in the teams' and manufacturers' championships than we do, so we have to keep scoring big when we can.
"We're still leading the drivers' and models' standings, and we know the 03 TCR is very well suited to the upcoming circuits at Jiangsu and Macau, so we're still very optimistic. It's all to play for and it's going to be an exciting few weeks."
TCR China championship standings
1 - Ma Qing Hua - Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Motorsport 03 TCR - 102 points
2 - Rodolfo Avila - MG XPOWER MG 6 TCR - 72 points
3 - Wu Yifan - 326 Motorsport Audi RS 3 LMS - 48 points
4 - Cui Yue - MG 6 XPOWER TCR - 40 points
5 - Lu Wei - Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Motorsport 03 TCR - 39 points
1 - MG XPOWER - 151 points
2 - Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Motorsport - 148 points
3 - Autohome Racing Team - 52 points
4 - 326 Motorsport - 48 points
5 - Champ Motorsport - 41 points
1 - Lynk & Co 03 TCR - 174 points
2 - MG 6 XPOWER TCR - 151 points
3 - Audi RS 3 LMS - 89 points
4 - Cupra TCR - 9 points
5 - Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR - 7 points