Experts who predicted that the wide, flowing Rio Hondo circuit would produce a WTCC race full of dramatic changes of positions were absolutely right. There were so many passing and re-passing moves that at times it was difficult to keep track of the cars positions.
The brilliant drive of the day without doubt must be that of Tiago Monteiro who started the race right at the back of the grid with a clear strategy to protect his Civic so that he had a competitive car for Race 2 where he will start on the second row. By lap 6 he had passed half the field on the way setting the second fastest lap of the race to finish in tenth place and earn a well-deserved Championship point.
"I decided to do what I could once the race got underway but I was determined not to risk any damage to the car but it was handling so well, really well balanced and gave me a lot of confidence so I could pass safely. I got up to the group fighting for places in the top 10 and it was so close even on the last two corners of the last lap I was looking for an opening. But 10th is good news and I'm ready for Race 2," smiled Tiago.
Tarquini was frustrated having made a great start and shadowing Michelisz right from the start. "I wanted us to try and get away from the big crowd but it was so busy. On lap two I was forced wide and the dust so thick that I went so wide the next minute I was 8th. I made a good recovery but it took me four laps to get back to the fight and then I had a chance to dive through into fourth place. It was a battle to hold that position but we collected good points in the end. So after Race 1 I am third in the Championship. It will be tough to add more points this afternoon but we will try."
"The three engines ran faultlessly for the race and the drivers did a great job especially Tiago who drove exceptionally," said Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC development from Honda R & D. "We are immediately analysing all the data and see where we can make some fine tuning for the best performance for Race 2."
Gabriele Tarquini mounted the podium to collect his well-earned trophy for a fighting second place in Race 2 of the WTCC event in Argentina this afternoon. Honda Civics also took 5th and 6th positions, all three cars showing ever improving on-track performance reflecting the on-going development in this, the first full year of World Championship competition for Honda.
The Italian went wide on lap two and dropped to 7th but once again showed his famous tenacity to fight back to 4th place on lap 7. Monteiro was bumped from behind by the current Championship points leader, the number 18 Castrol Honda going a long way off the tarmac into the dirt. Tiago's skill enabled him to recover the circuit quickly and he set about regaining positions. A drive through penalty removed Tiago's attacker, promoting Gabriele to second place which he held to the end. Tiago passed cars to catch up with Michelisz and the two Hondas crossed the line virtually together for 5th and 6th places.
At the post-race press conference Gabriele was full of praise for the Civic and the progress being made. "I have a really good car here, we have made chassis changes that are improving the car considerably. Even small changes such as the slight change in tyre pressures I made between Race 1 and Race 2 are working well to make the car faster. I really did not have to defend my position at the end of Race 2, I had the speed I needed."
"Of course I'm disappointed," said Tiago after the race. "I really felt that I had a podium opportunity but if we take an overall view of the results of the weekend we have to be pleased. We have learned a lot of the car, and have got a really good balance. The car showed to be very competitive and able to recover the gap to others when we have lost places. That means we are building speed. I think it has been a very positive weekend."
Equally pleased with the performance is Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC development from Honda R & D. "It is good to see that the small changes we made to the mapping have paid off. The small set-up changes helped Gabriele take a very strong place in Race 2."
The WTCC now moves on to California for the event at Sonoma early in September. The Castrol Honda team leaves Argentina after a hectic, sometimes fraught but ultimately positive and rewarding race weekend.
Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team