The Japanese round of the WTCC has kicked off today under a clear sky at Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture, Japan – perfect conditions for the Honda Civic WTCC to make its debut in the championship.
After successfully completing a test in Japan last week, Honda Racing Team JAS arrived at Suzuka Circuit in high spirits. In the press conference today, which the team held from 10:30am prior to qualifying, Hideo Sato, General Manager, Honda Motor Sports Division expressed his delight in participating in the championship, as well as his appreciation to all parties concerned. His comments were echoed by driver Tiago Monteiro, who shared his high motivation for the debut race.
Tiago immediately went onto the track as Q1 began at 3:30pm, but came off in his first attempt. After a short pit stop to replace his tyres, the Civic driver tried again, and recorded 53.875 – the 14th fastest time.
In another attempt, he improved his time to 53.840, but was unable to better his position, and returned to the pits with less than 4 minutes left in Q1. With a fresh set of tyres, he went back onto the track with less than one and a half minutes left in Q1. On the final lap, Tiago recorded 53.443 – 0.4 seconds faster than his previous best time, promoting him to 7th. As the result was announced a burst of applause was triggered in the stands.
In Q2, where the top 12 of Q1 advanced to, Tiago couldn’t improve his time as desired, partly because the team had run out of the allocated new tyres after Q1. His best lap time in Q2 was 53.886, which means he is going to start the race tomorrow from 11th.
Race 1 will start at 2:35pm and Race 2 from 3:50pm on Sunday, 21 October.
Commenting on qualifying, driver Tiago Monteiro said: "We always knew that it was going to be very tight and difficult in qualifying. Our objective was to advance to Q2, and for that, we had to use all three sets of new tyres allocated for the qualifying. As a result, we recorded a good time to win a place in Q2. But this compromised the second qualifying session because there were no more new tyres to run on. But I think we need to look at it positively, because only a few weeks ago we were not sure if we could even be in Q2. I think we’ve achieved our goals for now, and we’ll keep working and improving. We have two long races tomorrow and we’ll do our best."
Honda Racing Team JAS Team Principal Alessandro Mariani added: "At the end of qualifying we were a little disappointed because we wanted to be in the top eight. Unfortunately, qualifying was very tough and Tiago made a small mistake on the first set of tyres. That affected the entire session because we had to use all our allocated tyres to make it to Q2, so we couldn’t be where we wanted to be. However, in a way, this was as it should be, because this was our first qualifying and yesterday we only had a 30-minute run with a set of new tyres. So, with the little experience we’ve had, this is normal. We still believe that the car is good, so I hope to do well tomorrow."
Chief Engineer for Civic WTCC Development, Daisuke Horiuchi, said: "The engine had no problem at all throughout the qualifying and I felt relieved when we made it to Q2 at the last moment of Q1. I was hoping that we could record a similar time in Q2 as we had in Q1, but we’d used up all our new tyres, which was disappointing. After qualifying, I know that participating in the WTCC won’t be easy and we still have a lot of work to do. But in the race tomorrow we will try hard to move up as many places as possible from our position after qualifying, and hopefully put in a great performance for the fans."
Saturday, 20 October 2012
Suzuka Circuit East Course (2,243m)
Track condition: dry
Free Practice 1 54:188 (4th fastest)
Free Practice 2 54:000 (6th fastest)
Qualifying 1 (Q1)
1 Yvan Muller Chevrolet Cruze 52.940
2 Alain Menu Chevrolet Cruze 52.984
3 Robert Huff Chevrolet Cruze 53.077
4 Alex MacDowall Chevrolet Cruze 53.357
5 Tom Coronel BMW 320 53.420
6 Aleksey Dudukalo SEAT Leon 53.431
7 Tiago Monteiro Honda Civic WTCC 53.443
Qualifying 2 (Q2)
1 Alain Menu Chevrolet Cruze 52.885
2 Yvan Muller Chevrolet Cruze 52.950
3 Robert Huff Chevrolet Cruze 53.054
4 Alex MacDowall Chevrolet Cruze 53.206
5 Mehdi Bennani BMW 320 53.224
6 Gabriele Tarquini SEAT Leon 53.259
11 Tiago Monteiro Honda Civic WTCC 53.886
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