Published on May 15th, 2017 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Two Fairy-Tale Victories During Zhuhai’s Second TCR Asia Round
For the second event in a row, Zhuhai provided an unpredictable weekend of TCR racing delivering two first-time winners with strategy and good old-fashioned door-to-door racing highlighting again the strength of the new touring car formula.
Just three weeks ago teams were at Zhuhai for the second event of the season, on that occasion we saw a ‘world first’ with Audi Hong Kong teenager Jasper Thong claiming the first ever victory for Audi’s impressive new RS3 LMS TCR in round three, before Thai star Tin Sritrai grabbed the win in round four.
Then – as was the case this past weekend – the weather was wildly unpredictable, with conditions changing constantly making setup strategy difficult for teams and engineers.
Ultimately it was R Engineering’s experienced touring car campaigner WS Lai who was quickest in the damp conditions in opening practice, the Malaysian driver drawing on his years of experience to put the R Engineering Honda on top in the opening wet session ahead of the Liqui Moly Team Engstler cars of Kantadhee Kusiri and points leader Diego Moran.
In session two though it was Thai star Kusiri – the man many believe is the likely heir to the TCR Asia Series throne this season – who set the pace ahead of team-mate Moran and Lai, the Thai driver more than a second clear of the Malaysian Honda pilot.
Of interest to most in pit lane was the performance of new Phoenix Racing Asia recruit Shaun Thong, the rising GT3 star stepping in to the team’s second entry to support younger brother Jasper’s title aspirations, and very quickly the reigning GT Asia Series Pro-Am Cup champion was right in the battle at the pointy end of the field.
Qualifying was damp and it was Honda who claimed the top spot with Lai and team-mate Abdul Kaathir leading the field ahead of Kusiri and Shaun Thong. They, together with Moran, Jasper Thong and the twin Viper Niza Racing entries of Douglas Khoo and the returning Bill O’Brien would make the second leg of qualifying, whilst the two Elegant Racing Team Seats and the luckless Sritrai would be forced to start both races from the rear of the field.
Whilst Lai held the advantage heading into second qualifying, it was Kusiri who would emerge fastest, the #2 Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen topping the charts ahead of Kaathir, Lai and Moran. Phoenix Racing Asia team-mates Shaun and Jasper Thong were next for Audi, with Douglas Khoo topping new team-mate and 2016 TCR Asia Cup rival O’Brien for position seven – O’Brien as a result, claiming the pole for the second race of the weekend (grid is set by an inverted top eight order from Q2).