The Zhuhai International Circuit or ZIC as the teams that race here affectionately call it, is located approximately 45mins north of Zhuhai City, Guangzhou. Completed in November 1996 it was the first permanent motor racing facility built in China.
Zhuhai is the gateway city to Macau, which I’m sure everyone knows holds it’s own annual race meeting in November. The Macau race needs no introduction and boast’s a driver’s list that has seen such greats as Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Jacues Villeneuve grace the track.
ZIC employs a grass root strategy at the racing level and has played a significant role in China and Hong Kong motorsport. The grass root strategy allows many local drivers (and riders) the opportunity to compete at the highest level. Circuit Hero days mean fans can easily associate with the cars and drivers on race days.
ZIC is now host to many local, regional and international races, including the Pan Delta Super Racing Festival, Asian Festival of Speed, FIA GT (China Round), America Champcar (China Round) and the Audi R8 LMS Cup (China Round)
Many local professional drivers have raced at the circuit. The likes of Adderly Fong who recently signed a driver development programe with the F1 Lotus team, and was previously linked to Sauber (including a Friday practice outing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix) are testament to the tracks importance in the region.
For my introduction to the Zhuhai International Circuit I attended the 2015 Pan Delta Spring event held on March 21-22. The racing line up for the Festival included the open round of the Audi R8 LMS Cup featuring Alex Yoong, Chinese Superbike races, the Asian Formula Renault series as well as the hugely popular Hero Day programme.
After catching up with the Penz13.com Racing Team and Canadian Superbike rider Dan Kruger, I headed off to the Media Centre and the official riders briefing for the weekend. Wow…a Canadian Superbike rider in China! This was going to be an interesting weekend. I had previously met Dan in Macau for the 2014 Motorcycle Grand Prix and was intrigued by his presence. I knew Dan had already committed to the North West 200 Road Race for the Penz13.com BMW in May, so I was a little surprised to see him there.
Little did I know that Kruger had been competing in the ‘Pan Dan’ and China Superbike Series for the last couple of years. He was one of only a handful of riders that could legitimately lay claim to winning the event on the weekend, after all there was going to be 44 riders on the grid – that’s the special nature of ZIC, local riders mixing it with Professionals in a well organized event.
To be honest I didn’t know what I expected from the weekend, I had managed to secure Media Access and was already quietly surprised by the facility despite a small hiccup with my accreditation. I had been living in Macau for 10 years and had never visited the track. Perhaps the issue is that these events are ‘localised’ and not hugely promoted or simply I had not paid attention.
Either way it was time to race.
It was Friday and that meant practice sessions for everybody including the Superbikes for which I had travelled to see and was most interested in. Dan was on the Kawasaki however it was certainly going to be an exciting weekend of track racing with Corey West on board the EBR 1190RS and the factory Yamaha bikes piloted by defending China Superbike Champion Shi Zhao and his partner in crime, Li Zheng Peng.
Practice 1 for the Superbikes got off to a slow start however little did I realize that events of that that day would snowball for the Kawasaki rider. Kruger managed to post the third best time of the day during the session behind Li Zheng Peng and Cory West, before switching to his ‘B’ Bike to bed in a new set of brakes. The team was busy wrapping things up and ready to head back to the garage with the job for the day done. Little did they know that Dan had low sided his machine heading into turn one and was heading back to Pit Lane with a less than pristine ‘new’ Kawasaki ZX10R.
Kruger was off to hospital and the team had a long afternoon ahead of them cleaning up the damaged machine. Obviously there was no Practice 2 session for these guys however things seem to be on the up when Kruger was cleared of any fracture to his previously damaged wrist. It was time to re-group and prep for Saturday mornings Qualifying Session.
Saturday began early for the Superbikes teams with ‘Group A’ qualifying beginning at 0830hrs. Despite his injured wrist Kruger managed a respectful 3rd behind West and Li Peng with a 1:37:254.
Here is where things turned weird. Since Kruger missed official Practice 2, the rules state that he should have automatically been put in the second qualifier with the bottom 22 riders. Kruger went out in Q1, assuming it was the correct session. He managed to provisionally qualify in third on the front row alongside the American rider Cory West on the factory EBR and Chinese Y.E.S. Yamaha’s Li Peng. However, when the final grid sheet was posted, it had Dan back in row 15 in 44th and last position with no time recorded officially in qualifying.
The decision by tack officials seemed to spur the Canadian rider on (despite concerns from everyone in the garage)…what was really to be gained from the weekend, after all there were bigger fish to fry in Europe. The North West 200, Isle of Man and Suzuka 8hr were all on Dan’s calendar for 2015. Despite all the misgivings Kruger took his place on the grid for race one and too the amazement of all in attendance managed an unbelievable 4th place result when the chequed flag flew.
Things were a little unclear for the race on Sunday regarding starting positions for race 2 however due to Dan’s result on Saturday, it meant that he would start from 4th for the second race. Good news for the team and the injured rider who needed to salvage points if he was to keep his championship title hopes alive.
Race two saw an epic wheel-to-wheel battle between Corey West and Li Peng for line honors. West eventually triumphed however not before Li Peng set a new official lap record of 1:36:241. Kruger finished on the podium in third place after eventually triumphing over his long term rival Zhao. Who would have thought that such interesting battles would be served up at a local meet in Zhuhai?
I could carry on forever, after all that was just the Superbike Race. The Audi Cup Series provided their own drama’s with the debut of the first standing start, a women by the name of Rahel Frey showing some guys exhaust fumes and race two being red flagged due to track conditions. The Formula Renault races were highly competitive and more exciting than the recent F1 race form Australia, and the Hero’s were just that…Hero’s
All in all if you want to experience an actioned pack weekend then get yourself of to the Zhuhai International Circuit for the upcoming Pan Delta Racing Events.