It was a perfect end to the 2022 season for Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing, with the team’s drivers ZHANG Zhi Qiang and Sunny WONG winning the final two races of the year at Tianma, while David ZHU claimed the drivers’ title in his first year with the team.
The Shanghai Tianma circuit hosted the curtain closer on the 2022 TCR Asia series, running somewhat unusually on a Thursday, as logistical challenges meant the organisation had to work hard to find a way to ensure the sixth and final round could take place.
A private test session on Wednesday was the warm-up to an all-in-one race day, with qualifying taking place in the morning ahead of two races.
ZHANG dominated qualifying, putting his Lynk & Co 03 TCR on pole position over six-tenths of a second clear of team-mate and main title rival ZHU, while WONG qualified in sixth position, ensuring he was well-placed for the partially reversed grid second race.
ZHANG and ZHU led the way at the start of Race 11, while WONG was caught up in an incident at the first corner where he was rammed off the road by one of the other competitors, before further contact on the next straight caused him to puncture. The car that hit him had to stop on circuit with damage, necessitating a lengthy safety car.
WONG pitted for a pair of new Michelin tyres, but the short nature of the circuit of only 1.3 miles meant he was now a lap down and out of contention for a top result.
The race resumed just for one lap before there was more contact between a rival MG and Audi, with the safety car out again for the majority of the race. The race resumed with just over four minutes remaining, and ZHANG went on to claim his fourth victory of the year ahead of ZHU.
In the championship, WONG was now out of contention, while ZHU and ZHANG would go head-to-head in the final race separated by just nine points, with ZHU ahead both in the standings, but crucially also ahead of him on the grid for Race 12.
WONG started from the outside of the front row, but easily launched into the lead at the start and began to build a gap to the chasing pack, while ZHU and ZHANG were fighting their way up the order. The two were never together on the road, with a safety barrier of at least one MG always between the two title contenders, with ZHU being cautious not to get involved with the MG of Martin CAO ahead of him despite clearly having better pace.
As CAO’s tyres faded as he kept pushing under pressure, ZHU was able to pounce on the final lap and grab second place, while ZHANG was finally able to pass the next MG of Juan Carlos ZHU for fourth at the finish line, but with ZHU ahead that meant he was confirmed as the drivers’ champion, with Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing and the Lynk & Co 03 TCR already confirmed as the teams’ and models’ champions at last month’s event in Macau.
The 2022 season is therefore the most successful for the team in its history, locking out the top three of the drivers' championship with ZHU, ZHANG, and WONG, and significantly outscoring its rivals in the teams' and models' category.
David ZHU #9 RACE 1: P2 | RACE 2: P2
"I'm so happy with this year, the team, and most of all, winning the title. Taking over from MA Qing Hua was always going to be a challenge, but I settled in fast, and the professionalism of the team helped me hit the ground running and we've been at the front all year.
"Reliability and consistency was the key to my season, and that was also important today as although maybe I had the pace to win, it made sense to stay out of trouble and grab the points to get the trophy.
"Thanks to the team, and our all partners for the opportunity and for this fantastic season."
ZHANG Zhi Qiang #1 RACE 11: P1 | RACE 12: P4
"I'm really happy to have finished the year with another victory. To have taken my fourth win in a competitive year is a great achievement.
"Unfortunately, some problems earlier in the year meant I wasn't able to recover the ground in the championship, but it's great to have been part of a fantastic year for Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing, locking out the top three in the standings for the first time, and winning the teams' and models' titles in style at Macau a race early."
Sunny WONG #12 RACE 11: P10 | RACE 12: P1
"I'm delighted to end this year on a high with a victory, especially after a tough start today when I was taken out of the first race by another car.
"It's an incredible achievement to end the year with three wins and be part of the team's strongest season to-date as we celebrate the team's tenth anniversary - finishing third in the standings and coming here with a shot of winning the title, has been an absolute dream."