The start to this year’s World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) could hardly have gone any better for Tiago Monteiro. The Portuguese pilot, who is sponsored by Brose, sped to fourth and second in the first two races of the year in Le Castellet, France, to kindle hopes of a very successful 2016 season. “This weekend proves that our hard work during the past winter has paid off,” said the delighted Honda pilot about the successful first outing.
It was clear from qualifying that he and his team will be a force to contend with this season: in the battle for the starting places on the grid, the 39-year-old clocked the second-best time behind Jose-Maria Lopez (Citröen). Due to a change in the rules in the new season, this did not mean – as used to be the case – that he started in second in the first race, but only in the second race. The second is now called the Main Race, whereas the first one, in which the top 10 in qualifying start in reverse order, is termed the Opening Race.
Strong performances by Monteiro and Honda
Monteiro thus began the Opening Race in Le Castellet from ninth, but was not in that position for long. The ex-Formula 1 pilot continuously worked his way forward and even overtook the French driver Hugo Valente (Lada), who had started from pole position, with three laps to go. He ended up crossing the line in a remarkable fourth place, just one second away from capturing a place on the rostrum. The fact that the two other Honda pilots finished on the podium – Rob Huff as the winner and Norbert Michelisz in third – is also testimony to the strong start to the season by the Japanese works team.
Monteiro then proved to be the best Honda pilot in the Main Race. Although he lost second place to Yvan Muller (Citröen) shortly after the start, he recaptured it by a hard, but fair maneuver in the eighth of 17 laps. He was then even able to close the gap to leader Lopez and put strong pressure on the Argentinean, finally losing out to the defending champion by less than three-tenths of a second.
Tiago: “A magnificent result”
“I got off to a good start, but not as good as some of the others. I needed time to capture second spot,” said Tiago: “I thought it would be difficult to close the gap to the leader. But the car was very fast and so I was indeed able to get close. That wasn’t enough to win in the end, but second place is still a magnificent result.” Michelisz with his second third-placed finish on the weekend and Huff in sixth rounded out the strong team result for Honda.
Monteiro’s superb start to the season is also reflected in the overall standings after two out of the total of 24 races. He is in a very promising second, with just four points less than the leader – followed by his two teammates Huff and Michelisz in third and fourth. The next two races are in Bratislava on April 17. We hope Tiago and his teammates keep up their string of success.