Monday, 22 November 2021 21:14

Zhang becomes repeat Macau Guia Race Winner

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Zhang Zhi Qiang took victory in a dramatic second race of the Galaxy Entertainment Macau Guia Race weekend after team-mate Ma Qing Hua suffered a puncture while leading on the final lap.

It was Zhang’s second victory in the Macau Guia Race, having made history in 2020 by becoming the first Chinese driver to win the event, and also meant the Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing driver secured the TCR Asia drivers’ title.

There was little to suggest just how wild the 12-lap race would be at the start, as Ma launched well from pole position to head the field on the run to Lisboa - where Zhang was passed by the third Teamwork Lynk & Co 03 TCR of Sunny Wong Yat Shing for second place.

Zhang got back ahead of his team-mate at the same spot a lap later, but that squabble allowed Ma to make an early escape from the pack behind.

The gap had been as big as 4.6 seconds at the end of Lap 2, but within one lap that had shrunk to next to nothing as Ma attempted to defend his lead.

Though successful initially, the Chinese driver relinquished first on Lap 5 when he was passed by Zhang at Mandarin and then by Wong on the run to Lisboa, with Ma doing just enough to hold off the Audi of Filipe de Souza into the corner.

The order remained static until Lap 9 when Ma passed Wong around the outside at Lisboa, then rapidly homed in on Zhang - passing his team-mate on the run off the Melco hairpin to reclaim the lead.

Ma appeared to have victory in his clutches, having successfully defended from Zhang, but that was thrown into jeopardy as the race leader picked up a front-left puncture and slowed at the start of the lap.

Zhang held station behind the ailing sister Lynk & Co as the team attempted to preserve its 1-2, but had no option but to pass Ma when the pair were caught at Police by the Hyundai i30 N TCR of Lo Sze Ho.

Despite that scare Zhang had enough in hand through the final sector, clinching his first on-the-road Macau Guia Race triumph by 1.897s.

"Last year was my first year with Shell Teamwork Lynk & Co Racing, and this time it's quite emotional," said Zhang. "I don't know why, but in Macao I've always got lucky; my best lap was not as fast compared to my team-mate Ma Qing Hua, and my race pace was maybe not better either, but he always seems to be unlucky. If I am here next year, I would like to see him on the podium and winning in Macao.

"I'm really honoured to be here with my Chinese friends, with Chinese drivers, to stand here on the podium and to win in Macao and take the TCR Asia title. Thank you to the team, because they gave me quite a stable car that was also quite fast."

Lo had been a threat throughout the weekend, having finished third in Race 1, but the Z-Challenger Racing driver’s hopes appeared to have been dashed early in the race when he lost ground after attempting to overtake Wong for third.

That frustration was compounded when he was delayed at Lisboa behind the #81 Audi of Huang Chu Han, and Lo started the final lap 36s behind the leader, but his perseverance was rewarded as he crossed the line one position better than his result in Race 1 and in last year’s centrepiece event. However, Lo was later disqualified for a breach of the regulations relating to maximum turbo boost pressure.

Ma hobbled his Lynk & Co around the final part of the lap and just held on to third place, later elevated to second, beating the #17 Audi of Yang Xiao Wei by less than seven tenths of a second, while the sole Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Yiu Lung stayed clear of trouble to eventually classify fourth.

Wong had started the final lap third but suffered two punctures of his own and was not included in the final classification.

Macao driver de Souza, who was a threat for much of the race, had his hopes effectively ended when he received a drive-through penalty for a false start.

Having failed to serve that within three laps of it being awarded, however, he was shown a black flag. He then returned to the track after eventually taking the drive through, but did stop in the closing stages of the race after he was shown the black flag for a second time.

Andy Yan Cheuk Wai might also have been a contender for victory, having advanced an astonishing 15 positions from 22nd on the grid on the opening two laps, but he stopped his Team TRC Honda Civic Type R TCR FK7 while running seventh.

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