David ZHU took victory in the second TCR China race at the Shanghai International Circuit and a podium in Race 1, while Sunny WONG scored a podium in Race 2. With ZHANG Zhi Qiang securing pole position and a pair of fourth-place finishes, it means it was a very strong start to the 2023 TCR China season for Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing.
The team starts the year with the lead of the drivers', teams', and models' standings after a promising opener where the team showed great race pace with its Lynk & Co 03 TCRs, with two incredible through-the-field drives from 2021 TCR Asia champion ZHANG Zhi Qiang, and a brilliant race victory for David ZHU in Race 2, despite increased competition from the new Hyundai and Dongfeng Honda teams.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang and David ZHU left it to the final moments of Qualifying 2 to put their Lynk & Co 03s on the front row of the grid, nearly half a second clear of the closest competition, while Sunny WONG qualified a strategic ninth, securing a front row start for the partially reversed grid Race 2.
Unfortunately, ZHANG had a very slow getaway from pole, while ZHU's start also wasn't perfect, with ZHU dropping to third, and ZHANG to the mid-pack by the first corner.
After an early safety car, ZHU was able to pick off the Hyundai of ZHANG Zhen Dong for third at the final turn on lap six, but he wasn't able to catch up to the two cars ahead, having already taken the most out of his tyres.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang was battling back after his bad start, and was putting on some epic moves as he carved his way up the order, passing team-mate Sunny WONG at the restart to move into ninth, then overtook four more cars in two laps to move up to fifth.
ZHANG then passed an Am-class Audi with two laps to go to move to behind his team-mate, with ZHU and ZHANG then working together with ZHU allowing his team-mate through to try and get second on the final lap from Jack YOUNG. After ZHANG was unable to make a move, the two swapped places back at the finish, with ZHU finishing on the podium in the opening race, ZHANG fourth, and WONG sixth.
Meanwhile, Geely Group Motorsport Development Driver Program (GDDP) driver ZHU Yuan Jie had a steady run to 18th on his competitive debut in TCR.
WONG started from the outside of the front row, and was straight into the lead by the first corner after making a great start.
ZHANG made an incredible start, and from tenth was already fighting for the podium positions by the end of the first lap. Unfortunately, a puncture from contact with a pair of Hyundais at Turn 14 meant ZHANG had to pit for a replacement Michelin tyre and dropped to the back of the pack.
WONG was holding his own at the front until he was caught on lap seven by Jack YOUNG's Honda, with David ZHU now right in tow, both having battled past the Hyundais.
WONG fell behind YOUNG, ZHU and Andy YAN's Hyundai at Turn 3, while ZHU grabbed the lead from YOUNG's Honda at the final corner, and set about building a lead.
ZHU went on to win the race comfortably from there, while WONG claimed back the final podium position when YOUNG stopped with two laps to go. ZHANG put on another incredible performance to drive back from his first lap puncture, all the way through the 32-car field to finish in fourth place, securing vital points for the championship.
In a drama-filled race, GDDP driver ZHU Yuan Jie finished eighth overall, and claimed the win in the Am category.
David ZHU now leads the championship on 44 points, with ZHANG second on 29, and WONG fourth on 23, heading to the next round at the Zhejiang International Circuit on June 23-25.
What the drivers said
David ZHU #1
It's been a great start to the season. We showed we have great pace all weekend locking out the front row in qualifying, the only blip really was the start in Race 1, but we've done a great job to recover.
It was important to manage the tyres in the races, a lot of people were pushing too hard, and we we able to make sure we looked after them and took as many points as we could from Race 1.
Race 2 was just very exciting. I was cautious in the first few laps, and then just worked my way through, took the lead with one move and then got my head down to build a gap.
To win a race and leave Shanghai with the lead of the championship is the perfect start of my title defence.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang #36
I think those were two of the most exciting races of my life. I don't think I've ever come away from a weekend thinking how well it's gone, while not actually finishing on the podium.
To claim pole position with this intense new competition was so encouraging, it was just a shame something went wrong at the start and I lost so many places.
To come back through and finish fourth was a good race, and then Race 2, wow.
I think we could have been leading at the end of the first lap from tenth, but then the puncture put me back and I thought that was it, but the safety car kept us in the game and to drive back through to fourth again was incredible. The car was amazing, thanks to the team and Lynk & Co.
Sunny WONG #12
We've had a very strong weekend here at Shanghai. I kept out of trouble in Race 1 and was able to look after my tyres, capitalising as others slowed in the final laps and grab sixth place, and then had to plan for how I was going to manage Race 2.
I had a great start and took the lead, and it was possible to keep the Hyundais back, but when Jack and David were coming through it was going to be tough.
It's fantastic to start the year with a podium and to score a good haul of points in the championship. The competition is definitely tougher, but we showed we're going to be able to take it to them, and I can't wait until the next round at Zhejiang, but first, I'm back off to Europe to race at the Nürburgring for the first time since 2019!
ZHU Yuan Jie #92
I'm very happy with my first TCR weekend. I've learned a lot from the GDDP, but also so much more during the race weekend here with Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing.
It was a tough first race, but then Race 2 was incredible. I couldn't ask for more than to win my class and also have a top ten finish in my first race meeting.
Thanks to the team, to Lynk & Co China, Geely Group Motorsport for an incredible car and all the support, and I'm really looking forward to building on this momentum.