Zhang Zhi Qiang has taken over the lead of the 2021 TCR Asia series after a fantastic weekend at the Zhuzhou International Circuit, with two pole positions and three race victories out of a possible four.
After showing strong pace in practice on Thursday, Zhang rocketed to pole position in both of Friday's qualifying sessions, which would set the grid for Saturday and Sunday's first races, while Sunny Wong scored strategic reversed grid pole positions for each day's second race in his Lynk & Co 03 TCR.
Ma Qing Hua also showed great pace, qualifying just behind Zhang in the first qualifying session, before putting his 03 TCR third on the grid for Sunday's Race 3.
In Saturday's first race, Zhang led from lights-to-finish to secure victory, with Ma right up to second behind him. After a safety car period, MA was attacked by one of the MGs and spun around, sending him all the way down to 16th place, from which he was able to recover to an incredible fourth place at the finish.
Sunny Wong had been on course for a podium finish, before he was spun around by one of the TCR China class cars, and ended up eighth.
In Race 2, Wong led the race from the reversed grid, but was soon passed by a fast-starting Ma, but after another safety car period, Ma was passed by one of the lighter MGs and was unable to attack for the lead. Ma swapped places with team-mate Zhang to see if he could do anything about the MG, before swapping back in the final stages.
For Sunday's first race, Zhang and Ma led from the front, but while Zhang pulled away, Ma was mobbed by a trio of MGs, with Ma and Martin Cao making contact as they had yesterday. After this, Ma lost a spot to Rodolfo Avila in the final order, but scored key points in third, while it was a strong race for Sunny Wong, who finished fourth behind him.
Wong started Race 4 from pole, but lost the lead at Turn 3, while Ma Qing Hua and Zhang Zhi Qiang were flying up from the back of the top ten, with Zhang passing both Wong and Ma, and setting off to chase the race leading MG.
Zhang took the lead on lap 11 with a daring move around the outside of Turn 4, and went on to win by nearly five seconds, while Ma finished just off the podium in fourth, and with Wong just two places back in sixth.
The results for Zhang Zhi Qiang over the weekend means he has now assumed the lead of the championship from MA by just four points, while the two driver's nearest challenger is the MG of Rodolfo Avila, but 93 points back heading into the last two race meetings.
The next round of the 2021 TCR Asia series takes place at the Tianma circuit near Shanghai on November 5-7, with the season finale at the Circuito da Guia at Macau on November 19-21.
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID
MA Qing Hua #55 RACE 1: P4 | RACE 2: P2 | RACE 3: P3 | RACE 4: P4
"It's been a mixed weekend for me. We had good pace in the car, but also I've been the victim of a few 'optimistic' lunges shall we say, and that cost me key points, as well as the championship lead.
"I'm really happy with my recovery drive in Race 1 to get back to fourth, and then the two podiums are important, if not quite what we could have achieved this weekend. Still, a very good weekend and as a team we still lead all three titles quite comfortably.
"In terms of the drivers' championship, there's still four races left, so still some way to go though, anything can happen."
ZHANG Zhi Qiang #36 RACE 1: P1 | RACE 2: P3 | RACE 3: P1 | RACE 4: P1
"I'm absolutelydelighted with the performances we had this weekend. From practice, the car was working perfectly, and to take two pole positions, and three race wins was more than I could have expected from this weekend.
"I also had some great battles on track, especially in the reversed grid races where I was able to pick my way forward onto the podium in Race 2, and then to win Race 4.
"It's been a brilliant weekend for Teamwork Motorsport, and I'm proud to have scored three wins for Lynk & Co on its fifth birthday, and I can't wait until the next round at Tianma."
Sunny WONG #12 RACE 1: P8 | RACE 2: P5 | RACE 3: P4 | RACE 4: P6
"I'm delighted to have had a good, consistent weekend with four strong points finishes, after a tough start to the season. I'm of course disappointed to have missed out on the podium in Race 1 after I was hit at the final corner, but these things happen in racing.
"It's been a great weekend all round for Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing, and we head to the last two races knowing we're in a very strong position in terms of all three championships - a great weekend all round for Lynk & Co on its fifth birthday."