Hat-trick of victories at Zhuzhou
Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing had a fantastic start to its 2022 campaign, with each of its three drivers winning a race at the season opener at Zhuzhou. The team's drivers leave the circuit 1-2-3 in the drivers' championship.
The weekend started well, with ZHANG Zhi Qiang qualifying on pole position for the opening race during Thursday's qualifying session, ahead of new team-mate David ZHU, with Sunny WONG placing his Lynk & Co 03 TCR fourth on the grid.
The rain arrived by Friday, though the circuit was drying come the start of the first race. At the start, ZHANG and ZHU got away well, with WONG quickly up to third with the team running all cars in the top three, but were soon caught by rivals who'd opted for an alternate strategy, running wet tyres in the drying conditions which gave them early pace.
ZHU and WONG dropped just outside of the podium positions, before they mounted an incredible comeback in the final stages, dicing with the MGs and Volkswagens to grab back third and fourth, with WONG crossing the line just ahead of ZHU, while ZHANG won the race by an incredible 26 seconds, managing his slick tyres throughout.
The conditions were even more wet for Race 2. ZHANG and WON made quick progress from the reversed grid, and were already up to first and second by the end of lap three, while unfortunately ZHU was caught up in a first corner incident, and after pitting for repairs would find himself a lap down.
ZHANG and WONG controlled the race, with WONG passing ZHANG with just a few corners to go to secure a popular victory in his Lynk & Co on the same day he celebrated his birthday.
Everything was reset for Saturday and Sunday for Round 2. Unfortunately, while all three of the team's cars had the pace to safely make it to Qualifying 2, one of the Volkswagens didn't notice ZHANG's car on a hot lap as it was swerving to warm up its tyres and took out ZHANG's 03, with the car suffering severe rear damage.
With two cars out of Q2, the team split its strategy, with ZHU aiming for the fastest time and pole for Race 1, while WONG aimed to set a slow time and put himself in a good position for Race 2.
The team managed to repair ZHANG's car overnight so the reigning champion could start from eleventh on the grid for Sunday's races.
In Race 1, ZHU led from start-to-finish to score victory in effectively his first weekend in TCR competition, while ZHANG powered through to finish in fifth position, while Sunny WONG was an unfortunate retirement on lap seven with a gearbox issue, bringing out one of three safety cars in a heavily disrupted race.
For Race 4, WONG made a great start from second on the grid, and briefly led, before he was forced wide at Turn 3 and dropped back to second, which he would hold on to until the end of the race.
Meanwhile, ZHU and ZHANG worked their way forward, managing the tyres in the hot conditions, with the air temperature at around 37 degrees, and managed to finish third and fourth behind WONG, rounding off a successful weekend for the team, with all three drivers at the top of the drivers' championship table.
There's now a near two-month break before the third round of the series takes place at the Shanghai International Circuit on September 16-18.
ZHANG Zhi Qiang #1
RACE 1: P1 | RACE 2: P2 | RACE 3: P5 | RACE 4: P4
"I'm very happy to be leading the championship after a mixed weekend for me, but a great weekend for the team. We showed we had good pace from the start, and obviously Friday's races were the best for me after the unfortunate incident in qualifying.
"I was still able to score good points on Sunday despite having to start from the midfield, and to be leading the championship in what's clearly a very competitive field is an encouraging start."
Sunny WONG #12
RACE 1: P3 | RACE 2: P1 | RACE 3: DNF | RACE 4: P2
"It was an incredible weekend for myself and the team. I've not won a race for a few years, and so to win Race 2 on Friday was a dream start to the season for me, and I couldn't have thought of a better birthday present.
"To have finished on the podium in three races is an incredible start to the season, especially given the tricky conditions, first rain, and then the heat on Sunday. I'm really looking forward to seeing where we are in Shanghai."
David ZHU #9
RACE 1: P4 | RACE 2: P15 | RACE 3: P1 | RACE 4: P3
"It's been a brilliant first weekend with the team. I have to say the Lynk & Co is an incredible car, and it's been fantastic to be fighting right up the front straight away in my first time in TCR, first with my team-mate ZHANG in Race 1, and then following that up with a victory in Race 3.
"I was able to enjoy some great door-to-door racing in the other races as well, and can't wait to be back behind the wheel again in Shanghai."