Tiago Monteiro stood proudly on the podium not once but twice having raced his Castrol liveried Honda Civic WTCC into third place in race 1 and then going one place better with the closest possible second position in race 2 at the FIA World Touring Car Championship event at the Hungaroring. The Honda Civics of Gabriele Tarquini earned 4th and 7th places whilst Mehdi Bennani finished a strong 5th in race 1 with Hungarian star Norbert Michelisz rewarding his army of fans with a brilliant start and race to take 6th position in race 1 and 9th place in race 2.
Tiago was naturally delighted with his podium place. “I had a really good balance in the car and in the first laps was trying to pass Lopez and when I was pushing him he made mistakes so I hoped he would give me a chance. But once the race settled down and I could judge my lap speed I could see there was no need to go faster and to make certain we were good for race 2.”
Race 1 saw a spectacular start for Norbert Michelisz in the Zengo? Motorsport Civic to power through from 12th place at the start into 6th position by the third corner! The young Hungarian drove a controlled race as the four-car Honda train tracked the leaders for the whole 14 laps with Tiago in third but not able to close the gap to the front and with Tarquini heading Mehdi Bennani who held 5th throughout.
“As always I really concentrated on the start after my problem yesterday gave me such a poor grid position. I always do my best and today I got a really clean start,” said Norbert. Then I just had to manage the gap ahead of Loeb and make sure I did not make any mistakes.”
For Bennani 5th position was a strong result but a turbo problem on the slowing down lap would rob him of a chance to run in race 2. “It was not a very exciting race for me after the start but I was driving very smoothly to be certain the car was OK for race 2 but then as we came round after the finish there was smoke from the exhaust and the engineers determined that we could not run in race 2 which is disappointing but we will be fighting again in Slovakia next week.”
Race 2 saw another superb start from the same Honda Civic, this time Tiago flew off the line and straight into second place at the first corner immediately behind the pole man Morbidelli. For the full 14 laps the battle raged as the number 18 Civic looked for any opportunity to pass. The gap was never more than half-a-second and mostly just metres apart. Gabriele and Norbert were boxed into a high-speed traffic jam and had to settle for 7th and 9th positions as Tiago continued to harass the leader. Three corners from the finish the Portuguese star made a daring move to take the inside line but the gap closed and both lost speed and were nearly caught by the third place car. However they recovered to cross the line just three tenths of a second apart after 14 frantic laps.
“I’m very excited about my results this weekend as it shows all our hard work is paying dividends. I had the speed in the second race to keep with Gianni but it is one thing to be fast but another to get by. We will keep improving at each race and be flat out always so I am confident for another strong result in Slovakia,” said Tiago as he made his second podium appearance of the day.
“This is a very positive weekend for the team,” said Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC engine development from Honda R&D. “The cars’ total performance is improving and we continue to develop and test.”
Alessandro Mariani, Managing Director of J.A.S. Motorsport was equally pleased with the results.
“I am happy we were able to take two important podiums and were close to winning race 2. Let us see how we get on at Slovakia where we had a great result last year.”
Gabriele Tarquini is also looking forward to the next event, just a week away.
“Seeing Tiago fighting for the win in race 2 must give us confidence for Slovakia. The track there is a much more technical circuit and should suit the Honda very well.”
Race 1: 1 Yvan Muller, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 14 laps; 2. José-Maria Lopez, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 1.282; 3. Tiago Monteiro, Honda Civic WTCC 8.961; 4. Gabriele Tarquini, Honda Civic WTCC 13.980; 5. Mehdi Bennani, Honda Civic WTCC 14.747; 6. Norbert Michelisz, Honda Civic WTCC 16.672; 7. Sébastien Loeb,Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 17.475; 8. Tom Coronel, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 22.863; 9. Gianni Morbidelli, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 27.891; 10. Hugo Valente, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 36.287, etc.
Race 2: 1. Gianni Morbidelli, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 14 laps; 2. Tiago Monteiro, Honda Civic WTCC 0.350; 3. Hugo Valente,Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 1.206; 4. Tom Coronel, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 5.104; 5. Yvan Muller, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 5.435; 6. José-Maria Lopez, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 5.605; 7. Tom Chilton, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 6.306; 8. Gabriele Tarquini, Honda Civic WTCC 7.828; 9. Sébastien Loeb, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 8.308; 10. Norbert Michelisz, Honda Civic WTCC, 8.842
Driver’s Championship : 1. José Maria Lopez (ARG) 115 ; 2. Yvan Muller (FR) 105; 3. Sébastien Loeb (FR) 84 ; 4. Tiago Monteiro (PRT) 65; 5. Gabriele Tarquini (I) 48; 6. Hugo Valente (F) 47; 7. Gianni Morbidelli (I) 37; 8. Tom Chilton (GB) 36; 9. Mehdi Bennani (MAR) 26 ; 10. Norbert Michelisz (HUN) 23; 11. Tom Coronel (NL) 16; etc.
Manufacturer’s Championship : 1. Citroën 271 ; 2. Honda 172 ; 3. LADA 112