Daniel Lloyd’s TCR China Championship hopes hang in the balance after a dramatic weekend of high and lows at the Ningbo International Circuit for the penultimate meeting of the 2019 season (September 13/15).
Arriving in the Zhejiang province in confident form, the Yorkshireman secured his 4th podium from four meetings in the weekend opener, before contact on the opening lap of the final race derailed his championship plans.
Quick out of the box during both practice sessions, Lloyd then backed-up his performance with fast laps in the qualifying shoot-out to secure a second-row grid start in from P3 for race 1; heading up the trio of Dongfeng Honda Racing Team Civic Type Rs.
Making his way past team-mate Martin Xie in the opening laps, Lloyd set his sights on race leader Engstler. Closing the gap early on, the 27-year-old put the Hyundai under pressure as the laps unfolded. Ultimately, with the Honda unable to beat the South Korean marque’s pace, Lloyd secured vital championship points for his championship campaign, crossing the line in 2nd.
Starting from 7th on the grid in race two, the ABRACS and Mend-A-Hose racer made an excellent start, expertly piloting his Type R up into the lead pack by the end of the opening lap. Battling with Engstler for third, and looking at an all-but-guaranteed podium spot, Lloyd was innocently collected by his team-mate Couto as he lost control of his Honda causing race-ending damage to both of the Dongfeng Honda Racing Team Civics.
“A really unfortunate end to what started as a positive weekend;” commented Lloyd. “We did a great job in free practice and qualifying and were on the pace all weekend.
“The aim for Ningbo was to close the gap to the championship leaders, and it was almost job done in race 1. Securing the podium brought us back to just 3 points off the lead. So to be taken out of race 2 with another podium on the cards was gutting.
“I was in a really good position, battling with Engstler and then my team-mate, who was leading the race, lost it on the 1st corner and collected me. There was nothing I could have done.
“That has sadly put our championship hopes pretty much out of reach. We’re 20 points behind now, which is a full race win. There is just 1 round and 2 races to go which means something would have to happen to the leaders now for us to be within grasp of claiming the title.
“There’s still hope, but it’s a long shot now. The team did a great job this weekend. It’s just really unfortunate how it’s all worked out.”
Daniel Lloyd and the Dongfeng Honda Racing Team will return to action when the TCR China Series comes to a climax on October 26/27 at the Zhuzhou International Circuit for the 2019 season finale.