Monteiro leads dominant one-two finish for Honda in Morocco
Honda took an early lead of the 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship with a dominant one-two finish in Morocco from Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz.
Tiago started the Main Race from pole position and drove an inch-perfect race on the Circuit Moulay el Hassan in Marrakech; the Portuguese leading every lap to win by less than a second from his Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team-mate.
It was Tiago’s 10th WTCC victory and gave him a seven-point advantage over Norbert in the Drivers’ Championship.
Hungarian Norbert, who secured his 32nd podium in the series, had earlier finished fifth in the Opening Race; one place ahead of his team-mate.
Honda, who now have 15 WTCC victories, lead the Manufacturers’ points race.
Fellow factory driver Ryo Michigami, who was racing in Morocco for the first time, secured his first WTCC point with 10th place in the Main Race in his Honda Racing Team JAS Civic.
The Japanese driver had been on course for a similar finish in the Opening Race after making a superb start. Unfortunately contact from a rival driver bent his left-rear suspension, forcing him to retire in the pits.
The next round of the WTCC takes place at the historic Monza circuit in Italy on April 22-23.
Tiago Monteiro, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, said: “It’s a fantastic feeling for myself and the whole team to win the first Main Race of the season and be leading the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships. Overtaking is always tough on street circuits, so taking pole position yesterday was more than 50 per cent of the job. I made a good start, had to be very careful with my pace to make sure I didn’t over-work the brakes or the tyres on a very hot day, and took the chequered flag. To head Norbi home in a one-two finish for the team is great.”
Norbert Michelisz, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, said: “Today is a great result for the team and I have to congratulate Tiago on his win. Today’s result was all down to my start. I made a good getaway and made it up to P2 by the first corner. It got pretty close with a few other cars through Turn One, but after that, I was confident of holding my place because it’s very hard to overtake here and my Honda has been fantastic all weekend. This is a strong start to my season.”
Ryo Michigami, Honda Racing Team JAS, said: “It was a mixed day for me. I’m disappointed to have been taken out of the Opening Race after I’d made a very good start and made up a couple of positions. My rear suspension was broken, but because it happened early on, my mechanics a chance to get the car fixed properly before the Main Race. Scoring a point was a good result, but I need to continue to work on my race pace at the coming events. I’m sure this will come as my experience of the WTCC increases.”
Alessandro Mariani, Team Principal, said: “This is a terrific result and shows the real improvements we’ve made to the Civic WTCC during the winter to make it a winner first-time out in 2017. Tiago and Norbi drove superbly to score a one-two finish, despite the fact that we knew the high temperatures would make today very marginal on brakes. I feel sorry for Ryo because he was taken out of the Opening Race, but he showed strong pace in the Main Race and I’m glad he scored his first WTCC points.”
Ryuichi Furukawa, Large Project Leader WTCC Development, Honda R&D, said: “This is a very good way to start the season. Tiago and Norbi both drove very well and a one-two finish mean we scored the maximum possible points for the team in the Main Race. Ryo did a good job to gain more experience of the Civic and he will certainly continue to improve. We are leading the Manufacturers’ Championship, which is exactly what we were aiming for, so we leave Morocco very happy.”