11 Jan 2021 Strong final efforts give Sichuan Zhongliang Racing #76 first 2021 race win
Zhuhai International Circuit
On 9-10 January, Speed Hero 3 hours Endurance Race is held at Zhuhai International Circuit. It is the first official race of 2021. In the end, after 3 years of battle, Sichuan Zhongliang Racing #76 Huang Shi-Zhao/Li Hong/Ma Sai team takes the overall win after a poor start but a strong finish.
In the qualifying session on 9 January, #76 Sichuan Zhongliang Racing managed a 1:37.880 lap time to take pole position for the main race. In the morning of 10 January, the weather is cold and track temperature is also very low. It is a considerable challenge to the riders. At 08:33, Speed Hero 3 Hours Endurance Race officially begins. At the start, pole position starter #76 does not get away well and drops down to 5th position. #777 and #123 race ahead to the top 2 positions. On lap 2, #123 successfully moves up to the top spot. By now #76 has dropped down to 14th position and needs to returns to the pit for a rider change.
At 15 minutes race time, at T4, #419 and #86 clash, the race officials show the yellow flag, the two riders are able to continue. The fight for third position overall is fierce, the gaps among #77， #17, #88 and #888 are very small. After a few laps battle, #521 moves slightly ahead in third place. At T12, #86 rider falls on the track, the race officials show the yellow flag and deploys the safety car.
Two laps later the safety car returns to the pit lane and the race resumes. At T1, #11 stops by track side. The race officials show the yellow flag again but the race can continue. #123 continues to lead and #76 has moved up to third place overall. #17 and #888 are still running close together, fighting for CL3 class honours.
At 45 minutes, all the teams begin to change riders, #521 rides through the pit lane as it takes its penalty. 30 laps later, the order is basically set. The top 3 are #123, #777 and #76. Also #11, #77, #88, #80, #17, #76, #7, #419 take their penalties by riding through the pit lane.
At half distance, #123, #777, #76 continue to hold on their top 3 positions. At this time #123 and #69 have to take their ride through penalties. In CL3 class, #17 continues to lead by 9.358 seconds. The teams once again go into the pits for rider changes.
At 2/3 distance, #76 moves into the range of #777 and begins to eye its second place. #76 makes it move at T11, then begins to move away and close in on overall leader #123. #76 is on average 4 seconds a lap faster than the leaders. #419, #777, #11 and #80 need to take their ride through penalties.
At the two hours mark, #17 rides into the gravel at T11. The race officials show the yellow flag. #17 is able to continue, but it has lost its CL3 class second place. #888 moves up to second place and enjoys a comfortable advantage. By now the top 3 overall have formed a group. In the end the winner will undoubtedly come from one of #76, #123 or #777.
With 50 minutes left, #76 successfully pass #123 at T1 and takes the overall lead. After a few laps, #777 also puts on the pressure and pass #123 at T7 to take second place. #123 is now down to third overall.
In the remaining 30 minutes, #777, #76 and #123 enter the pits for the last rider change. #76 has extended its lead to more than a lap. #777 makes a rider change and is overtaken. It continues racing in second overall position. #80 and #521 take their ride through penalties. In the end, the order remains the same, Sichuan Zhongliang Racing #76 Huang Shi-Zhao/Li Hong/Ma Sai takes the overall victory by completing 103 laps. Jim777y Racing #777 Chen Hong-Yan/Li Hai-Bo and #123 Jack Ao Ieong Fu/Yang Kai-Yun/Olivia Jia are second and third respectively.
Top 3 of the classes
In the various classes, CL1 class top 3 are Sichuan Zhongliang Racing #76 Huang Shi-Zhao/Li Hong/Ma Sai, Sai Meng Racing #123 Jack Ao Ieong-Fu/Yang Kai-Yun/Olivia Jia and Shi Zhao Racing #77 Zheng Qi/Tang Xiang-Er; CL2 class top 3 are Jim777y Racing #777 Chen Hong-Yan/Li Hai-Bo, Shi Zhao Racing #88 Huang Yan-Jia/Sheng Yang/Dai Zong-Lin and Titanic Moto Centre #521 Shen Xi/Ma Lai/Ma Jun-Bo; CL3 class top 3 are Jim777y Racing #888 Li Fei/Zhan Jun-Hao/Zhang Xiao-Xiang, Shi Zhao Racing #7 Gao Yu-Hang/Wang Yi-Han, Xiong Di United Racing #17 Guo Yu-Xiang/Jiang Bo/Chen Wei-Zheng.
Post Race Interviews
After the race, the overall winner Sichuan Zhongliang Racing #76 said, “Our team has taken its first victory of the year. We are very happy. The three of us are ok on our runs, at the beginning of the endurance race the bike had a problem and we wasted a lot of time. We had to chase from the back and did not recover our loss until the second half of the race. Then we managed a steady pace until the end.” Second overall and CL2 class winner Jim777y Racing #777 team said, “Our team have gelled after many years racing together. We are actually a good match up. The two of us have performed steadily even though it was quite a challenge physically with only two riders, we persevered and took the class win.” CL3 class winner Jim777y Racing #888 team said, “After 3 hours of racing, the class win proved our strategy was a successful one. The 3 riders performed steadily and in the end we won the race.”