Honda Civic drivers have collected trophies on the podium 10 times from the 12 races run so far in this year's FIA World Touring Car Championship with number ten achieved this weekend by Norbert Michelisz in race 1 at the Moscow Raceway. It was also Norbert's fourth consecutive podium appearance and both he and Gabriele Tarquini collected more points towards their Drivers Championship tally. Tiago Monteiro drove skillfully in both races to gain many places from his lowly starting position, following his technical problems in qualifying, to finish his races in 12th and 13th place.
The super-close racing in this tough World Championship series was evident almost immediately after the rolling start of Race 1 when three cars collided at high speed, covering the track with broken bodywork. The Safety Car was deployed immediately to slow the field but recovery proved difficult and the Race Director decided to halt the action with the red flag. The race was restarted after 20 minutes with a further 11 laps to run.
Michelisz in the Zengõ Motorsport Honda had started the initial race from the second row and was running in third place at the red flag. He resumed this position at the restart and put in a very mature performance for such a young driver to hold off several challenges to retain his position to the finish. Gabriele Tarquini started the Castrol Honda from the third row and used all his experience to battle for 6th place in Race 1.
The top ten positions in qualifying are reversed for Race 2 which placed Tarquini and Michelisz together on row 3 of the starting grid. Tarquini made the best start of anyone this weekend to dive into 3rd place on the first corner after the standing start and battled hard with Pepe Oriola at the next turn but held the third position at the end of the first frantic lap. Five cars crossed the start/finish line side-by-side on lap 3 with the crowd on their feet as the fast turn 1 loomed in front of the field. The inevitable melee resulted in a major shuffling of the pack, some cars eliminated and Tarquini squeezed down to 8th. Michelisz inherited 6th and Gabriele set about recovering positions, moving up behind the Hungarian on lap 7 only to lose the position again on lap 9. Both Civics improved before the chequered flag to finish 5th and 7th whilst Monteiro demonstrated his determination to again drive through much of the grid to finish 12th overall.
The WTCC now heads to Portugal for the final European event of the season with the Honda Civics striving for podium positions at every race. The pace of the Hondas is clearly reflected in the imposition of the penalty weights determined by the organisers attempt to balance the performance of the cars. The Civics' speed and Slovakia Ring victory means that the cars are already carrying the maximum 40 kilos penalty in their first season, equal to the championship contender from the past 4 years.
Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC development from Honda R&D was philosophical after the races. "The engines performed exactly as we predicted but in the racing the competition is very close and we are not able to manage other competitors just ourselves. We must continue to add some performance to the cars at every event. The season has still many races to run and now after Porto we have to travel across the globe so it will be even more difficult to find development time."
"I see this podium of Norbert as a mark of the continuing excellent collaboration between JAS and Zengõ Motorsport. JAS is not only committed to provide Zengõ with the same specification as Gabriele and Tiago but also the teams are sharing set-up data and I am so pleased that this has worked again perfectly this weekend," says William De Braekeleer, Motorsport Manager, Honda Motor Europe.
Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team