Race One Portuguese racing star Tiago Monteiro thrilled his thousands of fans with a Sunday morning drive with a difference! Having been forced through technical problems to start Race 1 of the WTCC event here in sunny Porto from virtually the back of the grid on the 17th place, he drove a magical race to move into 9th position on the very last lap to earn valuable championship points.
"My total plan was to stay out of trouble from the start. There was a little encounter in front of me on lap 1 but I was clear and already gaining places. I was up to 13th at the end of the first lap and then got another place on lap 2. It was then a long drive home hoping that something big would happen in front.
Only on the lap 9 did I get a break when the safety car came out and the field bunched up. I got into position for a final charge and got past Nash and Basseng in the same move and crossed the line within the top 10. I guess I could not have done much more. The Honda ran perfectly and as I said before we keep fighting always for points and results."
Honda hopes had been pinned on Gabriele Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz from the front of the grid. Both got good starts with Gabriele fourth in the leading bunch at the end of the first lap and Norbert 6th.
The Hungarian unfortunately collected a puncture on lap 2 and brushed the close and solid walls damaging the suspension and putting the Zengo Motorsport Civic out of action. He is confident to be ready for the second race.
Tarquini was closing in on third place as the race progressed until on lap 8 the turbocharger failed forcing the number 3 Civic to stop. The Castrol Honda team will have just 15 minutes to change the unit prior to the start of race 2 which may force Tarquini to start from pit-road.
"The turbocharger uses the hot exhaust gases to spin a turbine that forces the air and fuel mix into the engine at greater than atmospheric pressure," explains Daisuke Horiuchi. Large Project Leader for WTCC development from Honda R & D. "The exhaust temperature was running at 1,100 degrees C. We will reduce this by 50 degrees for race 2."
Race 2 in WTCC events reverses the grid position only for the top 1 cars from qualifying so Tiago will have to repeat his superb drive all over again but this is sure to please the many, many local race fans who have crowded into the Boavista circuit to see their hero drive his Honda Civic flat out for results.
Race Two - "Can I go to the beach now?" asked Tiago Monteiro as he stepped out of his Castrol Honda Civic after another fighting 11 laps for the Portuguese race star in the second WTCC race at Porto.
Having sliced through the field in race 1 to gain championship points for a 9th place finish, Race 2 proved a more tiresome result with a relentless pace for a 7 car train for virtually the whole race. Starting 14th on the grid Tiago was into 11th by lap 7 but the cars are so evenly matched he needed mistakes by others or a safety car period to gain positions.
"It has been a really tough weekend but the positives are that we have two super sound cars to send to South America for the race in Argentina at the start of the fly-away events in this World Championship. I would have liked to give my fans more to cheer for but that is racing.
Some weekends just don't go as you hope. I want to say a big thank you to all the Portuguese fans who came to support me and the whole WTCC show. It has been quite emotional for me to meet so many people who really care about my results and wish me well."
Gabriele Tarquini was forced to start Race 2 for the back of the grid having had to fit a replacement turbocharger after Race 1. The Italian decided to use the race miles as a test session and try an alternative set-up on the second Castrol Honda Civic.
"I let the field get away in front of me for a couple of laps and then put in two or three really hot laps to assess our changes. My fastest lap was the 7th quickest of everyone in the race so we have that data for the future," reported Gabriele who motored on the finish 20th overall.
The damage sustained by Norbert Micheliszin Race 1 proved greater than first thought and the Zengo Motorsport Civic did not make the grid. The team will work around the clock in an effort to get the car ready for shipment this week but are concerned about the deadline.
"The alternative is to take the car back to base, repair it there completely and then try and find an economic airfreight route to South America in time for the race in August," said a disappointed Michelisz as his colleagues battled on track in Race 2.
"We have made a big step by reaching a peak in our boost control management this weekend," said Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC development from Honda R & D. "The three drivers are pleased to have high boost available at the press of their throttle but a too aggressive setting can be a risk.
We now know that peak. For Argentina, which has high elevation, we must adjust the mapping to suit the circuit and our data will enable us to do this for the very first run on the circuit where nobody has raced before."