Local drivers shine at MGP F4 qualifying race
Local drivers Charles Leong Hon Chio and Andy Chang Wing Chung occupied the first and second place in Saturday’s Formula 4 qualification race for the 67th Macau Grand Prix (MGP).
Leong, 19, secured pole position for the main race with a flawless drive in the eight-lap qualifier, despite having an early lead erased by a pair of lengthy safety car periods. That left him facing a single-lap dash to the flag, some keen defence against fellow Chang, 24, at Lisboa setting up a well-earned win.
Pole-sitter Leong made a perfect start to the race, charging into a clear lead on the first run to Lisboa as Chang and mainland China’s Li Si Cheng scrapped over second spot. Leong continued to build on that early advantage on the first lap, his gap over Chang more than 1.5 seconds as the field crossed the line to start the second tour.
That hard work was then promptly undone by the first of the two safety cars that would soak up much of the race. The initial caution was courtesy of a pile-up sparked by Zeng Yu Cheng and James Wong Wai Fu, which briefly left the track completely blocked.
While that blockage was quickly cleared as drivers managed to get going again, another stopped car at the Melco hairpin had most of the field at a standstill for a short period before the safety car could pick up the lead group. The race went green again on Lap 4, however, it was a matter of seconds before the SC boards were back out. This time the issue was Zheng Hui in the wall at the Solitude Esses, the clean-up lasting until the penultimate lap of the race.
That made it a single-lap dash to the finish, Chang taking advantage of the long run to Lisboa to draft in behind Leong and pull alongside in the braking area. The leader was up to the challenge, though, defending well to keep Chang in second before sprinting away through the mountain section of the Guia Circuit. His final winning margin was eight-tenths over Chang, as Li dropped a little over two seconds back over the last lap.
“First of all, thanks to my team,” said Leong. “Winning is an amazing feeling. To be fair I’m still pretty calm and not super happy yet because I want to save everything for tomorrow.”
Liu Yang made good progress between the cautions, going from eighth on the grid to fourth at the finish, followed by Shang Zong Yi and Hong Shi Jie. Zhu Yuan Jie finished seventh, Lo Kwan Kit eighth and Wong ninth, despite his tangle early in the race.
Today’s F4 race is the highlight of the 67th Macau Grand Prix, the last of the three-day event. Practice races took place on Friday, while all qualifying races were held today.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MGP is taking place without its signature Formula 3 and Motorcycle GP races.
Photo by MGPOC