Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Andy Yan used his vast experience at the venue he considers his ‘home’ circuit, to claim back-to-back wins at Shanghai, the Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR driver extending his winning streak to four straight races, and in the process, all but putting the championship out of reach for his rivals.
Frustratingly for Thailand’s Tin Sritrai, technical issues which sidelined the Team Thailand Honda at home in June, re-emerged giving one of the pre-season favourites a few anxious moments ahead of qualifying, but once sorted, the young Thai was unstoppable, claiming the fastest time in both sessions.
Ultimately Yan claimed back-to-back wins, whilst Sritrai suffered another setback in race two, allowing Kevin Tse to stand on the second step and move into P2 in the championship.
In the Amateur Cup, TeamWork Motorsport’s Kevin Tse claimed the top points once again to put himself well clear in the standings, whilst Liqui Moly Team Engstler grabbed more valuable teams championship points with Filipe de Souza claiming the bottom step of the podium in race two.
Tin Sritrai had completed just four laps of the Shanghai circuit ahead of qualifying, after suffering more technical issues with his Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR during both days of practice, practice which his rivals used to very good effect.
Friday’s three practice sessions saw the early pace set by the two Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCRs of Henry Ho and Michael Ho before light rain began to fall during session two. Henry Ho again topped the times on Friday afternoon over his team-mate and the two Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagens of Andy Yan and Filipe de Souza.
Saturday morning saw much the same early before Tin Sritrai delivered a lap-time that had everyone pacing ahead of qualifying, an impressive 2:21.142, a tenth clear of Henry Ho and a full two seconds clear of Andy Yan who was third fastest!
The opening qualifier only added weight to the threat from the Team Thailand entry, Sritrai punching out an impressive 2:20.295, a full second clear of Michael Ho with his team-mate Henry Ho two tenths further back. An even bigger surprise was the pace of Andy Yan, only 2:22.661 and fifth place behind Kevin Tse, no-one expected that, although Q2 suggested that there may have been some strategy in that..
Very quickly Yan was on the money in the final 10-minute qualifying session, the Hong Kong driver immediately into the 2:20s then the 2:19s, but despite his relative lack of miles around Shanghai, Sritrai was up to the challenge punching out a 2:19.210 to claim the top spot from Yan in the dying stages - the margin of difference, just 85 one thousandths of a second..
Despite showing an immense ability to overcome the odds and battle against the might of a logistically far more experienced team and driving combination, Tin Sritrai had shown he was every bit the match for the points leading Volkswagen of Andy Yan, the one thing the multiple China Touring Car Champion had in his favour though, was experience, vast experience of the Shanghai circuit.
Off the line Sritrai grabbed the lead, but he was a touch offline heading into turn one, and with limited laps in his Honda Civic TCR and not 100% confident of the braking marker, he did exactly what Yan had been hoping for and opened the door, the #3 Volkswagen firing up the inside as the cars approached turn two.
Behind the two leaders Michael Ho had made a blinding start in the Champ Motorsports Honda, taking third position from team-mate Henry Ho into turn two, whilst Terrence Tse had a tank-slapper at the same point, going sideways across the circuit before gathering it up at turn three. By that stage Yan was away, from Sritrai with the two Champ Motorsports Hondas in pursuit ahead of Kevin Tse and Filipe de Souza.
By turn eight Terrence Tse was at it again, the RoadStar Racing Seat driver struggling to get temperature into the tyres and finding the limit of adhesion wasn’t as great as he’d expected. Again he gathered it up and carried on in pursuit of the top six.
Not long after Sritrai was in the wars, running down the grass at turn six to avoid the rear of Yan’s Volkswagen, the Thai driver admitting afterwards that the team had fitted new brake pads and he just didn’t have the stopping power, fortunately the issue was only short-lived.
The spins continued to come, Douglas Khoo at the fast turn 13, then new recruit Neric Wei in the gorgeous new Volkswagen Golf GTi, whilst up front a great battle was brewing for fifth place between de Souza and Kevin Tse the two side-by-side and banging doors for a number of laps before Tse finally got the better of the Engstler Motorsport driver.
Up front though Yan maintained the gap he had to arch-rival Sritrai, crossing the line 1.5-seconds clear of the Honda driver, whilst Henry Ho crossed the line 10-seconds further back after suffering a late race steering issue.
Fourth was TeamWork Motorsport’s Kevin Tse who got the better of de Souza across the closing laps, in the process sealing the Amateur’s Trophy.
Sixth was Neric Wei who got the better of a mid-race battle with Terrene Tse, the Seat driver claiming seventh, and third in the Amateur division behind Wei, whilst Bill O’Brien’s impressive start to the weekend was thwarted by opening lap issues avoiding cars spinning around him.
Frustratingly for Viper Niza Racing’s Douglas Khoo he had a technical issue with the car on the line at the start and was unable to get away with the field, dropping well behind and unable to peg the field back across the 12-lap journey, a frustrating end to what had been a great run through practice with the Malaysian driver finding plenty of pace in the mid-season break.
Terrence Tse was off pole position for the second race with the top eight cars from qualifying inverted, the Seat driver with Neric Wei alongside. Sadly the Volkswagen driver, who had never started from the front row before, was swamped by the field into turn one, losing out to Filipe de Souza, Kevin Tse, Tin Sritrai and Andy Yan - the leaders charging hard from the fourth row.
De Souza, Sritrai and Yan were quickly through on race leader Tse, then it was de Souza who came under fire as both Sritrai and his team-mate fired around the outside into the ‘Parabolica’ (turn 13). Not long after Sritrai lost the lead on the exit of turn one, the #9 Team Thailand Honda running wide again a number of times during the next few laps signaling a bigger issue.
Utimately the Thai driver was forced back into the pits with the re-emergence of dramas that had delayed him at Buriram, whilst up front, Yan was out to an unassailable lead, as the battle began for third place between team-mate de Souza and his race one rival, Kevin Tse.
Behind them a great battle ensued once more between Terrence Tse and Neric Wei, the two battling hard for position, a classic late braking duel down at turn six saw both cars with their tyres locked, and whilst Wei took the inside line and the advantage on turn in, he too ran off on the exit allowing Tse back into P4. A similar situation the following lap allowed Wei back into fourth.
Sadly for the Honda teams, issues sidelined both Champ Motorsports cars, leaving the five Volkswagens and the sole Seat Leon of Terrence Tse still circulating after Kenneth Ma was forced to retire the gorgeous Ford Focus TCR after a turbo failure in the opening race and Douglas Khoo was sideline with a tyre failure in the closing laps.
With Yan continuing to extend his lead despite the 30-kilogram success ballast, the focus was on the battle for the remaining positions on the podium, with Kevin Tse ultimately breaking free of de Souza’s grip in the final few laps, the Macanese driver claiming his first podium for the year, and a Liqui Moly Engstler Motorsport 1-3. For Volkswagen it was even better news with a podium lock-out, whilst for Andy Yan, it was four wins on the trot and a big extension in his championship lead, a lead which will surely see him crowned champion at seasons end.
What the drivers had to say..
Andy Yan (#3 Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
“I’m from Hong Kong, but I treat this as my home race in China. Yesterday Tin [Sritrai] was very, very fast and took pole position, but today off the start for race one I knew I had a chance to overtake if he took the middle line, and I’ve experienced many times the opportunity to make a move on the inside off the start and it worked. Because I know the circuit so well, I was able to use that experience to my advantage.”
Tin Sritrai (#9 Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR)
“That’s the least amount of practice I’ve ever had in my life, just four laps and then qualifying.. That made it very challenging for the team to set up the car, but in qualifying I managed to get a good lap. Unfortunately my lack of experience in the opening race let Andy through for the lead, and as the race wore on, I experienced very bad understeer. In turn six too I had a big problem with brakes, perhaps as a result of new pads, and I ran off whilst I was chasing Andy but after that it was fine. Unfortunately we’re still suffering a little from the issue we had in Thailand, but I will continue to do my best.”
Henry Ho (#88 Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR)
“I didn’t get a very good start in race one and went side-by-side with Michael into turn one, but experience told me there’s no advantage on the outside there so I just had to back off and wait for my time to pass him, but he was very quick so I used up a lot of tyres and brakes to get around him, and by then the two leaders were gone. Towards the last few laps, I had to drop the pace because the steering had an issue and the car struggled to turn right, so I thought I’d back off and make sure I got to the podium.”
Shanghai International Circuit, China (20 August, 2016)
1. 9. Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR) - 2:20.295
2. 38. Michael Ho (Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR) - 2:21.281
3. 88. Henry Ho (Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR) - 2:21.410
4. 8. Kevin Tse (TeamWork Motorsport VW Golf GTi TCR) - 2:21.630
5. 3. Andy Yan (Liqui Moly Team Engstler VW Golf GTi TCR) - 2:22.661
6. 14. Neric Wei (Son Veng Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR) - 2:22.934
7. 26. Filipe de Souza (Liqui Moly Team Engstler VW Golf GTi TCR) - 2:23.173
8. 17. Terence Tse (Roadstar Racing Seat Leon TCR) - 2:23.728
9. 7. Bill O’Brien (TeamWork Motorsport VW Golf GTi TCR) - 2:24.544
10. 65. Douglas Khoo (Viper Niza Racing Seat Leon TCR) - 2:24.849
11. 78. Kenneth Ma (FRD Racing Ford Focus TCR) - 2:29.519
1. 9. Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR) - 2:19.210
2. 3. Andy Yan (Liqui Moly Team Engstler VW Golf GTi TCR) - 2:19.295
3. 88. Henry Ho (Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR) - 2:20.092
4. 38. Michael Ho (Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR) - 2:20.501
5. 8. Kevin Tse (TeamWork Motorsport VW Golf GTi TCR) - 2:21.033
6. 26. Filipe de Souza (Liqui Moly Team Engstler VW Golf GTi TCR) - 2:21.046
7. 14. Neric Wei (Son Veng Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR) - 2:21.767
8. 17. Terence Tse (Roadstar Racing Seat Leon TCR) - 2:23.166
Shanghai International Circuit, China (21 August, 2016)
1. 3. Andy Yan (Liqui Moly Team Engstler VW Golf GTi TCR) - 12-laps
2. 9. Tin Sritra (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR) +1.539
3. 88. Henry Ho (Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR) +10.279
4. 8. Kevin Tse (TeamWork Motorsport VW Golf GTi TCR) +16.919
5. 26. Filipe de Souza (Liqui Moly Team Engstler VW Golf GTi TCR) +18.738
6. 14. Neric We (Son Veng Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR) +47.564
7. 17. Terence Tse (Roadstar Racing Seat Leon TCR) +53.080
8. 7. Bill O’Brien (TeamWork Motorsport VW Golf GTi TCR) +1:32.124
9. 65. Douglas Khoo (Viper Niza Racing Seat Leon TCR) +2:17.558
DNF. 38. Michael Ho (Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR)
DNS. 78. Kenneth Ma (FRD Racing Ford Focus TCR)
1. 3. Andy Yan (Liqui Moly Team Engstler VW Golf GTi TCR) - 12-laps
2. 8. Kevin Tse (TeamWork Motorsport VW Golf GTi TCR) +13.079
3. 26. Filipe de Souza (Liqui Moly Team Engstler VW Golf GTi TCR) +14.391
4. 14. Neric We (Son Veng Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR) +42.127
5. 17. Terence Tse (Roadstar Racing Seat Leon TCR) +45.490
6. 7. Bill O’Brien (TeamWork Motorsport VW Golf GTi TCR) +58.255
DNF. 65. Douglas Khoo (Viper Niza Racing Seat Leon TCR) - 11-laps
DNF. 9. Tin Sritra (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR) - 8-laps
DNF. 38. Michael Ho (Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR) - 2-laps
DNF. 88. Henry Ho (Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR) - 1-lap
DNS. 78. Kenneth Ma (FRD Racing Ford Focus TCR)
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