Monteiro: Citroen likely to remain "the strongest car" in 2017
Honda’s Tiago Monteiro believes the Citroen cars will remain the benchmark in the 2017 WTCC season despite the manufacturer pulling its works team from the championship.
Citroen's third consecutive title is looking all but assured this year, but its exit in 2017 is expected to leave Honda as the clear favourite.
“On paper, we, as Honda, should be the strongest option to fight for the championship [in 2017],” Monteiro told Motorsport.com.
“Of course, let’s say if we stay as we are, it will be a big fight internally, and I'm sure Volvo, Lada will be there."
Monteiro, however, reckons the slower development rate in the championship will mean the Citroen C-Elysee cars will remain regular contenders in the hands of independent teams.
"We can't forget that the Citroen [cars] will be here. Because the car is so advanced that they will be strong.
"It depends on who will drive, but if they have good drivers they will be fighting with us for sure.
“If you remember when Chevrolet stopped, Yvan [Muller] stayed with the privateer team [RML] and he won the championship.
“When you have a car that is so strong, the following years in WTCC, there are evolutions, but it is not the kind of evolution like in Formula 1, where you can make big steps.
“The steps we always do are smaller because the development is slower. So, in one year it's difficult to cover so much, so I think that Citroen next year will still be the strongest car, it will only depend on who drives.”
Trailing points leader Jose Maria Lopez by 117 points in the standings, Monteiro admits the drivers' title is a long shot - but says he has not given up on the title yet.
“I'm still thinking about the championship, and I'm being realistic, I know the probabilities are very low,” he said.
“I know we will need to be stronger all the time and we need him [Lopez] to have some bad luck, otherwise it's not possible but we still believe in this.”
But should it not happen, Monteiro added that he will be happy with a top-three finish, as he is yet to place higher than fifth in the standings at a season's end.
“If this [title] doesn't happen, it is not the end of the world. We will fight for second of course and third.
“To be in the podium of the championship would be nice, I never did it, fifth was my best, so I want to be there at the front.
"It's very tight, I mean, seconds separating us and P8/P9, so it's very very close, and so we can't afford any mistakes.”
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