Tiago Monteiro gave his Japanese Honda team its long hoped-for home victory in Motegi. On the ninth weekend of racing in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), the Portuguese pilot, who is sponsored by Brose, won the second race and was overjoyed afterwards. “I’m incredibly happy. It’s difficult for me to put it into words. It’s something special, because it’s Honda’s home soil – and it’s also a home race for me. The fact that so many Brose employees came to support me makes me especially proud,” said Tiago, whose weekend on the 4.8-kilometer course had not got off to a good start.
The ex-Formula 1 pilot captured a good eighth place in qualifying. However, the engine of his Honda Civic then had to be replaced, so he was demoted nine spots on the grid for the first race – to the back of the field. Yet from 17th place, he launched an impressive effort to catch up. In his 200th WTCC race, the 39-year-old again got off to a perfect start and then fought his way spectacularly through the field. In particular, the breathtaking three-way tussle with Rob Huff and Hugo Valente set the Japanese motor facing fans alight.
Tiago battles his way into the points
In the end, Tiago finished behind the British driver Huff, but crossed the line ahead of the Frenchman Valente to secure ninth place and so pick up two points in the world championship standings. The two other Honda pilots Norbert Michelisz from Hungary and Gabriele Tarquini from Italy came second and third respectively behind the winner Jose-Maria Lopez (Citroën) to the jubilation of the home crowd. As a result, the Japanese manufacturer finished up with two drivers on the rostrum.
Yet things were to get even better for Honda – thanks to Tiago Monteiro. The Portuguese driver started the second race from third on the grid and took the lead on the first out of the total of 13 laps. Valente (Chevrolet), who started from pole position, was not able to withstand Tiago’s power at the start of the race and was forced to drop in behind him. To the applause of the many Brose employees who had made the journey from Nagoya, Monteiro kept on extending his lead, benefiting from the fierce tussles of the drivers chasing him. He took the checkered flag almost ten seconds ahead of second-placed Valente and just under eleven second in front of Huff (Lada). His teammate Tarquini finished fifth.
“I’m happy for the whole team”
“We knew the second race would be very important and that there was something in it for us,” said Tiago after his second win of the season. “I pulled away very quickly and got everything out of my car in order to build a comfortable lead. I also paid attention to my tires. I felt very confident with the car the whole weekend. The balance was great and the updates definitely made us more competitive. I can only thank Honda for all the work and support. I’m very happy for the whole team”
Going into the last three weekends of racing, the battle for fourth spot behind the Citroën trio in the world championship standings is more exciting than ever. That is because not only Tiago, but also his rivals were able to pick up points in Motegi. The gap between fourth-placed Qing-Hua Ma and Tiago in seventh is just 18 points. That means fourth spot is definitely within the Portuguese driver’s grasp. The next two world championship races are in Shanghai on September 27. We wish Tiago every success.