WTCC World Touring Car Championship 2014
Gabriele Tarquini stood proudly on the podium after bringing his Castrol Honda Civic home a fighting third overall in the first race of the FIA WTCC event at the Circuit Paul Ricard. The Italian ace mastered the wet and slippery conditions to make a great start to his season. Having made a brilliant start Gabriele led the Civic of Norbert Michelisz into the first corner and continued to lead the race for the first two laps before being passed by Yvan Muller. Michelisz hung onto the leading pair until lap 5 when he was passed by Sebastien Loeb and gradually dropped down the order to finish 7th one place ahead of Tiago Monteiro who made a poor start and found his car lacking grip but improving as the race went on. He moved up to 8th position two laps from the end. Mehdi Bennani finished 13th.
“I was very happy with the start of course but the setup was not so comfortable in these condition. It was quite a handful and I had to be very gentle with the car for all the race. To be on the podium is such a great difference to the feeling last weekend in Marrakesh and this result is a tribute to the team for all the work to repair my car in time for this event,” smiled Gabriele.
Tiago Monteiro worked hard to bring the number 18 Civic home. “I had a poor start. Not so much wheelspin but it just did not want to get away. Maybe I was too careful with the power to avoid spinning the wheels. I was really surprised with the lack of grip to be honest. I had not driven in the wet this year until today and it was very difficult to be sure. It improved as the race went on and I was able to take the place from Morbidelli but by then the next group were too far ahead to challenge.”
For Norbert Michelisz this was a race that gave him more experience of the car especially in the wet conditions. “This was my first time in the wet and really I am very happy with the result to keep the car under control for the whole race. I made a slight mistake in the fight with Lopez and lost the place and then was passed by Huff and Valente but we will race again and see what happens.”
Alessandro Mariani, Managing Director of JAS Motorsport praised both his drivers and the team. “I am really happy with this result, as you know we are still at the early stage of our development program. This shows we have already found progress and this motivates us for the next steps.”
Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC engine development from Honda R&D; “I am praising the talents of Gabriele and Nobert who exploited the drivability of the engine to make such good starts. All the software work we have done has paid off and built our data knowledge.”
Honda take second podium in France with Monteiro third in Race 2
Two races and two podium appearances – a positive weekend for the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team. Tiago Monteiro made a lightning start from the second row of the grid to lead the field into the first corner, closely followed by Mehdi Bennani in the Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC. Equally quick off the line was Gabriele Tarquini who cut through the pack to hold 4th place at the end of lap 1. Gabriele moved into third by lap three to form an impressive Honda trio at the front. Tiago had pulled out a three second lead when the safety car slowed the race on lap 8 whilst debris was removed from the circuit.
The Portuguese star was quickly into his stride again as the caution ended, moving away from his pursuers. However another on-track incident required the safety car again almost immediately and once racing resumed Tiago was passed by Lopez and Muller. Monteiro held third position to the finish to earn another podium appearance for Honda with Gabriele shadowing him home in fourth and Bennani showing increasing confidence in a three car battle where he held off Sebastian Loeb and Dusan Borkovic for a well-deserved 5th place.
“I had a very good car for this race,” reported Tiago as he waited for the podium ceremony. “I had a great start especially as it didn’t work so well for me in Race 1. I had built a decent 3 second lead and felt pretty comfortable but then the safety car came out. It was really bad timing for me those two safety car periods. We are certainly improving all the time and I would like to congratulate the whole team for a superb job well done.”
For Tarquini 4th place was another step forward. “Two podiums this weekend really is the maximum of our ambitions presently so it is a very good weekend for us and we have a positive view for the next races.”
Fifth place overall was a great result for Mehdi Bennani but he had to fight all the way. “It was so close racing. At every corner towards the end the others were trying all they could to get past. I just had to take my line and drive my race. I’m pleased to give Honda 5th place here in only our third race in the Civic.”
Norbert Michelisz finished in 8th position making in four Honda Civics in the top 10. “I would have liked to take more points for the weekend but it was not a tragedy. My start was not brilliant and then in the middle of the pack there was so much happening. I had a couple of knocks but overall I am happy with the car and the Zengo team did a very good job. We expected a tough start to the season with a brand new car so I am happy to be heading for my home race at Hungaroring with many improvements to the car included.”
Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for engine development from Honda R&D was pleased with the results. “The results with two podiums matched my hopes for the cars current position. These are our first podiums of the season. We also collected very good specification data in both wet and dry conditions. The performance of all the cars in both races has shown good progress particularly the driveability from the standing start which was clearly evident in both races.”
For JAS Motorsport Managing Director Alessandro Mariani, these results give the team a sound base to work from. “Our race set-up for race 2 could have got us a victory as Tiago was 6 seconds ahead of the winner when the safety car came out, ruining the advantage. We still have a gap to close to the opposition and we have so many ideas and plans that we need to test and introduce. I am very happy now to have proved that we do have big potential with this Civic. Of course there is lots of work to do. I am really pleased with the drivers who put in super drives and the whole team with all the rebuilding for Gabriele and the race strategies. After a difficult period we are all much happier than we were three days ago. We must remember that this car has just been born and we have to make it grow up as quickly as possible.”
|1||Yvan MULLER (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC)|
|2||Sebastien LOEB (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC)|
|3||Gabriele TARQUINI (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|4||Jose LOPEZ (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC)|
|5||Rob HUFF (LADA Granta 1.6T)|
|6||Hugo VALENTE (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)|
|7||Norbert MICHELISZ (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|8||Tiago MONTEIRO (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|13||Mehdi BENNANI (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|1||Jose LOPEZ (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC)|
|2||Yvan MULLER (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC)|
|3||Tiago MONTEIRO (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|4||Gabriele TARQUINI (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|5||Mehdi BENNANI (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|6||Sebastien LOEB (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC)|
|8||Norbert MICHELISZ (Honda Civic WTCC)|