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Honda confident despite African woes

Mehdi Bennani secured the best result of the weekend for Honda during rounds 1 and 2 of the 2014 World Touring Car Championship, while Tiago Monteiro took a number of positives away from the weekend.

The Castrol Honda driver was the sole representative on the grid after team-mate Gabriele Tarquini was forced to miss the opening rounds after an accident during the practice sessions the day before.

Monteiro brought the #18 Honda Civic home 6th in the opening race and was on course to better that result in the second race before dropping back down the order in the closing laps due to a tyre issue. He finished as the last classified driver.

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The results mean he heads to France and the Paul Ricard circuit 7th in the Championship and he is hopeful of an improved performance at Le Castellet.

“We have collected loads of data that can now help us improve the performance,” said the Portuguese ace. “Our set up improved every time we went on track, this has been a big test weekend and we learned a lot. I’m sure we will be faster next weekend at Le Castellet.”

Mehdi Bennani started his home weekend with a seventh place finish in the Proteam Motorsport Honda Civic and for the second race of the weekend, lined up on the front row having finished ninth fastest in qualifying.

The local hero was caught up in an opening lap incident which saw him given a drive through penalty for. With the help of a mid race safety car, he was able to recover fifth at the end, losing out on fourth place on the drag to the finish line.

JAS Motorsport’s Managing Director, Alessandro Mariani, was pleased with what he saw from Bennani and the team as a whole but isn’t happy about the scheduling of the opening few rounds of the campaign.

“Our priority was to find some set-up solutions and we achieved this although it would have been even better to have Gabriele also running as a second data source but it was impossible here to repair his car after the Friday accident,” said Mariani.

“I am confident about the potential of the Civic but having these races so close together at this part of the season does not help us. And a street circuit is not the ideal place to be running for testing purposes. I was very impressed with Bennani’s drive. I think he has good results to come this year,” he added.

The third Honda of Zengo Motorsport and Norbert Michelisz secured a ninth place finish in the opening race of the season despite battling a power steering issue in the closing laps and this resulted in the Hungarian driver sitting out the second race as the issue couldn’t be repaired in time for the second race of the day.

“I had to use all my strength to turn the steering wheel in the last two laps,” Michelisz said. “I really must do more weight training for sure!”

Rounds 3 and 4 of the season take place at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet, France next weekend, 19/20 April.

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