Thai driver Kantadhee Kusiri of Liqui Moly Team Engstler secured the 2017 TCR Asia Drivers’ championship with two cautious races at Zhejiang at the wheel of his Volkswagen Golf GTI. Kusiri greatly benefited from an engine failure that slowed down his countryman Tin Sritrai during the first race and focused on staying out of troubles to score the points he needed. Race 1 was won by guest drivers Jean-Karl Vernay in a TeamWork Motorsport Volkswagen, with Kusiri fourth overall and first of TCR Asia.
Sritrai won the second race, while Andy Yan was second overall and winner of TCR China.
Vernay dominated the first race, overtaking Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic) at the beginning of the second lap and consistently increasing his leading gap up to 20 seconds. Behind him, NewFaster teammates Yan and Huang Chu Han completed the TCR China podium in their Audi RS3 LMS cars, while Kusiri finished fourth overall and won the TCR Asia.
At the start both the Liqui Moly Team Engstler cars of Kusiri and Diego Moran stalled; Sritrai took the lead but was soon passed by Vernay; Kusiri then dropped from fourth to sixth behind Huang and Sunny Wong (TeamWork Motorsport Volkswagen).
For half of the race, Sritrai held on to the second position, leading TCR Asia, but on lap 10 his pace faded and he lost two places to Eric Kwong and Abdul Kaathir. On lap 16, Wong lost a wheel and the fourth position in TCR China. He pitted, rejoined and eventually was classified eighth.
Sritrai took a superb victory in the second race, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Kusiri from securing the title. Sritrai made a brilliant start from second on the grid and powered past Kusiri; Yan also passed Moran to set up a four-way fight for the podium places that lasted the entire race.
With victory the only option for Sritrai, he held his nerve while others behind him were swapping places. Kusiri lost second when he was passed by Yan’s Audi on lap 8 and then was passed for third place by Moran on lap 14. Kusiri knew that the title was within reach and only had to stay out of trouble for the remainder of the race. Moran then made several efforts to pass Yan for second but each time was thwarted, even nosing ahead briefly on lap 15 only to lose the position again when he ran wide at the next corner.
That was how it finished, with Sritrai taking the chequered flag 2.4 seconds clear of Yan, who finished as the best TCR China entrant. Moran was a frustrated third.
TCR China’s final race of the weekend takes place at 10:00 on Sunday morning.
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