Martin Cao wins TCR China opener in Shanghai
Martin Cao enjoyed the ideal start to his 2023 TCR China programme with victory in the opening race of the campaign in Shanghai.
Jason Zhang had qualified his Lynk & Co on pole ahead of team-mate – and defending champion – David Zhu, with Jack Young’s Honda and the Hyundai of Cao on row two.
There was drama off the line when the lights went out for the start as Zhang failed to get away from pole and Zhu was also slow – allowing Cao to jump into the lead on the run to turn one ahead of Zhang Zhendong, with Zhu slipping back to third place and Young holding on to fourth.
Young wasted little time in grabbing third spot from the Lynk & Co ahead and the grabbed second going into the second lap, getting the switchback on the Zhang Zhendong out of turn one.
Pole sitter Jason Zhang meanwhile had dropped down outside the top ten to lie in 13th after managing to get his going.
The safety car backed up the field after two laps of racing to allow the Honda of Hu Jiaxin to be recovered from the side of the circuit, with the action resuming with 18 minutes left on the clock.
Cao held onto the lead ahead of Young, who tried to find a way down the inside through the opening turns whist behind, Zhu was all over the rear of Zhang Zhendong for third. Andy Yan and Max Hart followed behind, meaning four Hyundais inside the top six.
Cao and Young eased clear of the fight behind as Zhu managed to make a move stick on the back straight to get ahead of Zhang Zhendong, whilst further down the order, Hart found himself dropping back to tenth as he lost out in a huge squabble for position amongst the lower reaches of the top six.
The podium positions would be set from that point on as Cao took the first win of the campaign ahead of Young and Zhu, with the main focus being behind as Jason Zhang fought back from his start-line dramas to rise through to fourth.
Zhang would close in on the top three during the final laps but couldn’t make it onto the podium, although he had plenty of space behind with Wang Cheng Zheng’s Audi and the Lynk & Co of Sunny Wong rounding out the top six.
Rainey He’s Hyundai was seventh, with Zhang Zhendong slipping back after his strong early run to end up in eighth place. Yan Chuang and Yang Xiao Wei rounded out the top ten.