Honda World Touring Car Championship boss Alessandro Mariani says that his Castrol Honda team “worked very well” in Marrakech on the last weekend before a major upgrade package is introduced in Budapest.
Drivers Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini were both within a second of the pace of Citroën’s José María López in qualifying, with Monteiro going on to qualify in seventh (which later became fourth) and Tarquini in 11th (which later became eighth).
Both Honda Civics were running without the new aerodynamic upgrade package which is set to be introduced at the next round in two weeks’ time, which the team worked on during recent testing in Portimão. Mariani admits that the focus on forthcoming races, and the anomalous, bumpy nature of the Moroccan street circuit, meant the team did not have the right set-up over the weekend.
“I was really positive yesterday but I knew it would be difficult for us,” said Mariani. “Today we had a new problem that hadn’t happened before. Last year we had some problems with the car and lost Gabriele’s car [during a free practice crash] so we never really raced here. We started with white paper.
“This weekend we worked very well but if we could do it again I think we could be better prepared, i.e., with the dampers which are very important here. In Portimão we worked on setup for the overall performance of the car rather than focussing on the kerbs, which we have suffered with. We also had braking problems that we’ve not encountered before.
“Fortunately the new aero package includes a totally different front, along with brake cooling, so this is the last time we run with this specification because in Budapest we will have the full upgrade package.”
Monteiro took sixth in the opening race, before retiring from race two with accident damage when he was hit from behind at the first corner on the opening lap.
“It wasn’t a brilliant race one but I at least scored some points,” said the Portuguese driver. “We made some changes for race two and this time my start was great, up to P2 before fighting with Sébastien and slipping back to P3. Then suddenly I got two big hits from behind and I was sideways, which destroyed my race. It’s a real disappointment because a third or fourth finish was entirely possible.”
Tarquini fared only slightly better than Monteiro, following his team-mate home in seventh in race one before picking up fifth in race two with a last-lap, last-corner move on Stefano D’Aste.
“In the first race I had a very good start, overtaking [Tom] Coronel but very close to the wall, and then I took Norbert [Michelisz] at turn four,” said Tarquini. “After that I tried to defend my position with [Yvan] Muller, but he overtook me quite easily and I had to look after my brakes.
“The second race was quite different – it was very exciting because I tried to overtake D’Aste, but he came back, then he braked up the inside but I managed to take position.”
Monteiro leaves Marrakech in joint fourth in the drivers’ standings with Tarquini and Citroën’s Ma Qing Hua, with the trio all tied on 38 points.