ZHUHAI, China -- Despite carrying 50kg extra weight due to new rules, the Changan Ford Racing team managed to put the Ford Focus on pole position at the second stop of the China Touring Car Championship (CTCC), held at Zhuhai International Circuit (ZIC) on May 22-23.
The Ford Focus also managed to outlast all competitors throughout the accident-marred race to take the checkered flag in an apparent win for the team.
The victory was short-lived however after race officials reviewed tapes of the race and in a controversial reversal of fortunes, set the winning Ford back to sixth place for overtaking during a yellow, caution lap.
With many of the 2000cc drivers choosing slicks for qualifying, Changan Ford racing team's strategy was to get on track and warm up and, after a few laps, pit for a tire-change. After the tire-change, Driver Rainey He immediately set a lap time of 3 seconds faster and moved into the top three qualifiers. Tengyi Jiang with 90kg weight disadvantage, finished the session with a decent 9th place. Martin Cao set the best lap of the day (1:50.975), right after tire-change and finished by grabbing pole. Rainey He qualified fifth, Jiang, ninth and Andy Zhen13th .
At the start, Cao did a remarkable job defending his lead while Rainey was mired in traffic. Small contact with Michael Ho affected Cao's speed, providing an opportunity for Kachun Lo to move into the lead.
Just three laps into the race, the Changan Ford racing team was reduced to just two cars following Rainey He getting sandwiched between two cars that afflicted too much damage for him continue. Jiang was hit in the rear by Henry Lee and ran into the tire barrier.
The two on-track incidents brought out the yellow flag and safety car.
Cao passed Lo at turn seven to regain the lead apparently before Jiang's accident and managed to extend the gap at the restart. Cao, just 17-years old, set the best lap of the day (1:50.602) and won the race, while Changan Ford teammate Zhen finished fifth.
Just five hours later, race officials delivered the bad news – race winner Cao was penalized for overtaking under yellow. While Zhen moved up to fourth, Cao was dropped to sixth.
“It was one of the most exciting race weeks but unfortunately the end result was disappointing,” said Paul Hui, project director of the Changan Ford racing team. “The team had to deal with a lot of factors this week: the extra weight we have to carry due to the new WTCC style weight compensation system; the ever unpredictable weather in the area, and an action packed race with a lot of incidents that most of our drivers were involved in. To close out this interesting week, our young driver, Cao, apparently won the race but lost it afterwards after he was penalized 30 seconds due to passing when the yellow flag was out.”
Changan Ford Racing team showed up for the second round of the CTCC sporting a new impactful look in line with the new primary brand statement of Ford.
Emblazoned with the new slogan “Feel the difference”, the Focus racing cars sported a new color bar with eight colors patterned after eight color-options for the Focus road cars providing even more visual impact for Ford Racing fans accustomed to the splashy blue and white Ford Focus team cars.
“The team showed extremely good spirit during the whole week trying to find the extra performance to compensate for the 50kg the cars have to carry," said Hui. “I have to specially thank TEIN, our technical partner for the suspension system, who immediately proposed a new damper system hoping to gain the edge. It is this kind of team spirit that dilutes the disappointment and maintains our fighting spirit for next race."