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Honda drivers disappointed with Marrakech qualifying

Honda World Touring Car Championship drivers Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini say they are disappointed with qualifying on the streets of Marrakech, which saw them end up fourth and eighth on the grid respectively.

The works’ duo were hampered by numerous yellow flags on their fast runs in qualifying, causing them to have to abort quick laps.

Although Monteiro and Tarquini originally qualified in seventh and 11th places respectively, both drivers were promoted by three positions due to multiple other drivers receiving grid penalties for the first race.

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“We always said it was going to be one of the toughest qualifying sessions -it’s not an easy track for us,” said Monteiro after qualifying. “Having said that, we had a decent pace throughout testing and from there of course comes motivation and optimism.

“We tried our best to fight for qualifying but in the end it was really bad luck with the yellow flag, which affected Gabriele, Norbi [Michelisz] and myself. Frustratingly it came on a really good lap for me – one of those laps where I felt really comfortable with everything and felt it could be a special one. Unfortunately I struggled to repeat that in the second run but in the end it wasn’t bad.”

Monteiro admits that whilst another podium result would be good, he cedes that the bumpy Marrakech street circuit is not a place well-suited to the Civic.

“I’m happy with the car; we managed to find a nice balance throughout the weekend and now we’re looking ahead for two strong races. We need to score some points.

“It would be amazing to be on the podium but in the least we are targeting some points this has been my objective for the weekend. I wasn’t expecting miracles, but certainly to be strong, steady and to make sure I finish both races.”

Although Tarquini will be elevated to eighth for race one, he actually only qualified in 11th. Frustratingly for the Italian, that means he missed out on the reverse-grid pole position for race two to Yvan Muller.

“It’s disappointing if you finish 11th, it’s not the best place but I wasn’t in a good situation in Q2,” said Tarquini. “Q1 wasn’t bad, I was in the top 12 so I elected to use just one set of tyres. It was not a bad lap and after we decided to run a second set of new tyres for my second attempt, when I was following Yvan. But we hit waved yellows and all had to slow down, which was a bit of a mess and affected my quick lap. After that I decided to run alone with Norbi for the next run.

“In the end it was not a bad lap, but I made a mistake at the hairpin and it cost me probably the top ten. So now my focus is to avoid any trouble off the start and make sure I can finish both races.”

JAS Motorsport Managing Director Alessandro Mariani summarised the team’s qualifying, insisting that both works drivers and Michelisz were all on fast runs before being affected by yellow flags caused by a slowing Tom Coronel.

“I was very disappointed for the final result, because our possibility to get good qualifying positions was affected by the yellow flags in the second run,” said Mariani. “The split times were very good for all three cars, but with the yellows they were forced to go for a second run on the tyres.

“Norbi couldn’t finish the lap and Tiago was caught up by Muller going slow. Gabriele made a mistake, losing three tenths. However if you look deeper into the sector times you understand that we are actually not so far from the competition.

“We knew before that Marrakech is a lottery and not an ideal circuit for us due to the long straights. Technically speaking I am really satisfied we have closed the gap to Citroën.

“My target was to take as many points as possible, so the strategy for tomorrow is that Gabriele needs to use all his experience to avoid any trouble, whilst Tiago and Norbi have the opportunity to start in front for race two. We have expert drivers, they are very clever, so we will do the best we can.”

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