Published on October 3rd, 2016 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Yan claims 2016 TCR Asia Series title in Malaysia
After yet another fantastic TCR event, Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Andy Yan has emerged as the 2016 champion after his fifth win in eight starts at the Sepang round of the championship supporting the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix.
The Volkswagen star may have added to his win tally, but the results sheet disguised some incredible performances, notably that of Team Thailand’s Tin Sritrai. The young Thai star had stunned the International Series regulars after qualifying his Honda Civic TCR an amazing tenth fastest and less than a second off pole-man – recently crowned TCR Italy champion – Roberto Colciago.
Behind him Andy Yan and TeamWork Motorsport’s Kevin Tse were no less impressive, but for Sritrai, his result would prove to be a huge boost for his burgeoning career, the Thai driver taking pole position for race two by virtue of the reverse grid [top ten] start.
Ultimately Yan would win the championship, whilst Sritrai stunned the big Malaysian Grand Prix crowd by keeping the International stars behind him for three laps in race two before being forced into a spin, but all the TCR Asia Series regulars showed incredible pace, mixing it with their more experienced global rivals throughout both races, earning praise from up and down pit lane.
Whilst the International Series regulars engaged in a battle royale off the start of the opening race, Yan’s title chase was put very much on notice after a five-car incident at turn four. The Hong Kong-based Volkswagen driver had been forced onto the grass on the infield at the braking point, the multiple China Touring Car Champion doing everything in his power to stop the car, but with no alternatives he ran back across the circuit clipping rivals – including team-mate Davit Kajaia – at the apex of the corner, forcing four cars off the circuit.
Fortunately he was able to rejoin, latching onto the tail of the pack as the field formed up behind the Safety Car which was called to remove Kajaia’s stricken Volkswagen.
Meanwhile Sritrai had enjoyed a strong start to be ninth and locked onto the tail of the leaders, but no sooner had the race restarted, than he was back in pit lane, an experience the Thai driver has endured many times in season 2016, a turbo issue forcing him to retire from the race.
That left Kevin Tse in the lead, the TeamWork Motorsport driver holding onto the TCR Asia Series front running to the flag despite Yan’s charge back through the field, the points leader crossing the line second, with team-mate Filipe de Souza third for the second Volkswagen 1-2-3 in succession.
Sadly for FRD Motorsport – who were campaigning their Hong Kong-built Ford Focus TCR with rising star Nicky Pastorelli – their weekend of development ended on the start-line for race two, an engine failure off the line as the cars started their observation lap leaving oil on the inside of the main straight. Officials quickly rectified the problem, however the end result saw the field start behind the Safety Car and lose one of the 11 scheduled laps.
As the opening lap came to a conclusion, the Safety Car returned to pit lane, and Sritrai led the field away, the popular young Thai leading three laps before contact from hard-charging points-leader and reigning champion Stefano Comini forced the Team Thailand Honda sideways at speed at turn 14, forcing Sritrai off the circuit. He gathered things up again and returned to the circuit in eleventh, however he was quickly caught by Yan and then Tse, the two Volkswagen drivers working their way past the ailing Honda.
Yan was setting an impressive pace in comparison to the leaders, and a late race Safety Car after contact between Honda drivers Mikhail Grachev and Roberto Colciago allowed the Liqui Moly Team Engstler driver to lock onto the tail of the battle for fifth, the Hong Kong driver ultimately classified an impressive eighth, crossing the line just 10-seconds behind race winner Kevin Gleason, and only a second behind fifth place!
Kevin Tse crossed the line second with 11th outright, whilst two positions further back, Sritrai held on for third – cool consolation for what very well could have been victory and an International Series podium. Comini as a result of the contact received a post-race time penalty, dropping the Swiss driver from second to 18th, all but handing the International Series title to English rival James Nash..
Filipe de Souza continued his impressive second half of the season with fourth place, the Liqui Moly Team Engstler driver adding to his second podium of the year in race one, whilst Douglas Khoo in the Viper Niza Racing Seat and Bill O’Brien in the second TeamWork Motorsport entry completed the podium for the Amateur class once again, with Tse taking top honours for both categories.
For Yan, his fifth win from eight starts hands the multiple China Touring Car Champion the 2016 TCR Asia Series crown, his points lead putting the title out of question heading to Macau in November (18-20).