Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing has extended its lead of all three titles in the TCR Asia International Series, after a high scoring weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit - with Ma Qing Hua and Zhang Zhi Qiang taking a win each.
After a four-month break, the Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing team showed it hadn't lost any performance over the extended summer break, when MA Qing Hua secured pole position comfortably on Saturday morning with a margin of over 1.5 seconds over his nearest rival around the 5.45km circuit.
Sunny Wong was well-placed in fourth, while Zhang Zhi Qiang set his lap in the final moments of the session, strategically just getting into the top ten, with tenth, which secured the Macau winner pole position for the top-ten reversed grid race on Sunday.
First up was Saturday's race, and Ma bolted away from pole, while Sunny Wong made an excellent start, darting around the car which had a slow getaway in front of him and was straight up to second. Wong was passed at Turn 6, before he was spun around at Turn 8 by the next car and was collected by a mid-field Audi, destroying his front suspension and ending his race early.
By lap four, a surprise rain shower hit the track and the field struggled to stay on the circuit. The safety car was called which allowed the teams time to come in and change to wet tyres if they wanted to. Ma was the first driver to make the call, and it would prove to be inspired, as his main rivals pitted too late and lost a large amount of time.
Zhang Zhi Qiang was the last driver to change tyres, pitting from the lead at the restart on lap eight, while Ma retook the lead and won the race by over 22 seconds, his third consecutive win of the season.
Sunday's Race 2 it started wet and got worse. Zhang Zhi Qiang controlled the field from the start, while Sunny Wong again had to dodge a slow starting car, and was fighting for second place on the opening lap after starting seventh. Wong was soon switching to fight a defensive race to keep third place as the rain intensified.
On lap four, Wong's car lost control as it aquaplaned down the back straight and into one of the MGs, eliminating both cars from the race. The race was held behind the safety car as the two stricken cars were rescued, with Zhang initally leading team-mate Ma Qing Hua, but MA was passed by one of the MGs during the safety car period.
When the race resumed, Zhang held on to take the win, with Ma crossing the line third, but was later promoted to second following a penalty for the MG driver, securing the team its third 1-2 finish of the season.
MA Qing Hua now has a 32-point lead in the drivers' championship over Zhang Zhi Qiang, while Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing has a 111-point advantage over MG in the teams' and manufacturers' championships heading to the next round next month at Zhuzhou.
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID
Ma Qing Hua #55 RACE 1: P1 | RACE 2: P2
"It's been a great weekend, but also a challenging one. The weather was very tricky, but a great call on Saturday's race to change tyres straight away worked perfectly for me, I just had to keep the car on the track.
"In the second race, I was happy with my progress to get up to second place. If I hadn't been passed behind the safety car, we could have been fighting for the win, or at least crossed the line together, but it's still a fantastic result.
"I have a really strong lead in the championship, but there's still a lot of races left so it's important to not get complacent."
Zhang Zhi Qiang #36 RACE 1: P7 | RACE 2: P1
"That was a tough weekend. In the first race I was making good progress, and I was happy to find myself in the lead, but that would only have worked out if they never restarted the race, as it was too dangerous to race in the wet on slicks, so I had to pit, but to still finish seventh was a good recovery.
"Race 2 however was perfect. I made a good start, and then when the rain came I just had to be careful. The long safety car meant I had to build my lead again, but it was easy to control, and I'm very happy to have claimed my second win with Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing, and now we have a good lead in the teams' and manufacturers' championship."
Sunny Wong #12 RACE 1: DNF | RACE 2: DNF
"It was a bit of a weekend to forget, but the positive is I still scored points in qualifying, and showed the strong pace of the car, and also how good it is at the start.
"My first race was going well and it looked like I could be on for a podium before I was spun by a rival. It was a racing incident, but it was just a shame I got collected by one of the Audis, are and after that the car was too damaged to continue.
"In Race 2, the conditions were just too dangerous when the rain began to fall again. I was again running in a podium position, but I just aquaplaned on the back straight; there was nothing I could do and ran into one of the other competitors. It's a shame to end the weekend with two DNFs, but we showed we have good pace, now we just need some luck, and some sun!"