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Tiago Monteiro: Shanghai straights won’t favour Honda

Honda World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) driver Tiago Monteiro heads to Shanghai this weekend cautious of predicting strong results, admitting that the circuit’s long straights are unlikely to play to the car’s strengths.

Monteiro had been on the pace early on last weekend in Beijing, when the Portuguese driver topped two out of the three Saturday sessions. However the two Chinese circuits could hardly be more different, with the tight and twisty confines of the Beijing Goldenport circuit last weekend replaced with the faster corners of Shanghai’s Grand Prix circuit this weekend.

“The Honda Civic has taken a step forward at all levels,” said Monteiro. “It is now closer to the performance of our rivals. “We are more capable of fighting for wins and this was also evident last weekend. We will work with the team to get there in Shanghai.

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“I am very motivated and determined to seize every opportunity I can to get on the podium, however the long straights on the Shanghai circuit do not particularly go in our favour.”

Despite Monteiro’s pessimism he actually scored victory at the venue in 2013 at the wheel of the older-specification Honda Civic. The win last year is the only time in the past four years that the 38-year-old has won in the WTCC.

“It was a beautiful win,” admitted Monteiro. “Last year I started race two from pole, took the lead in turn one and then ten laps later I crossed the line in first position. It will always be a nice memory for Honda, the team, my Honda-teammates and myself.”

JAS Motorsport’s Alessandro Mariani is confident that his team are heading in the right direction with the Civic, despite the results at last weekend’s race in Beijing in which neither driver stood on the podium.

“The race incidents and the bad luck didn’t help us, but there were some other things that completely ruined our strategy too,” said Mariani of the previous races. “I am thinking of Tiago who was at the top of the rankings until Q2 and then completely fell back down the order, or Gabriele [Tarquini] who couldn’t capitalise on his second place on the grid.

“We really have to look at what went wrong in those two cases, because without those we could have got a great result and confirmed the competitiveness of the Civic WTCC. So despite the results, I have a really strong feeling that we are working in the right direction.”

Honda’s Large Project Leader Daisuke Horiuchi has cited the Beijing event as the turning point in the season for the team and manufacturer.

“The results [in Beijing] do not reflect the performances of the Civic WTCC. Beijing clearly was a turning point in the season though. After multiple test sessions it is clear that we have taken a big step forward performance wise. Our target is to continue working in Shanghai, and to be fully ready for the meeting in Suzuka.”

Gabriele Tarquini agrees that the team have taken a step forward with their car, after he qualified in second in Beijing only to lose out in the races on Sunday.

“Shanghai is a circuit with quick corners and serious braking zones,” explained Tarquini. “Since our chassis, engine and set-up are all okay – I only barely missed out on pole last weekend – I think we should be able to confirm our progress. We will give our all to perform well and I am really eager to give the Civic WTCC its first win too!”

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