Honda are preparing for their most important race of the season, as the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) heads to Japan at the Twin Ring Motegi this weekend.
Honda have only once previously won on home soil as a works team, when Gabriele Tarquini took victory in race two in 2014. Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz also famously won the opening race at Suzuka in 2013 when competing as an independent driver.
Tarquini compared the Japanese fans to the passionate ‘Tifosi’ of Italy, with the 53-year-old calling the race in Japan his ‘home race’ due to the absence of an Italian round of the championship since 2014.
“For me, Motegi is my home race because I don’t have an Italian race this year,” said Tarquini. “It is the most important one of the season for the Honda team. Last year I won the second race in Suzuka and I felt the passion from the Japanese fans. They are very passionate, like the Italian ‘Tifosi’, so I hope to have a good weekend in Motegi.
“We’ve never raced there but I think we can be close to the competition with the support of our Japanese fans. I drove a few laps in Motegi with the Honda Super GT car two years ago on the ‘Honda Thanks Day’- it’s an impressive place and I am excited to return.”
Tiago Monteiro was also full of enthusiasm heading to Japan, with the Portuguese star optimistic of the circuit suiting the team’s Civic WTCC car. Monteiro has only once previously stood on the podium in Japan, when he finished third in the 2013 race.
“After Vila Real, Motegi is a second home race and both in a row! I am always very excited to come to Japan it’s my favourite country with fantastic people, plenty of culture and lovely food, so I always look forward to coming back.
“We know a little bit of the track for having done a few laps in Super GT and it should be a good track for our Civic WTCC. After the summer break I am extra motivated to get back on the podium and hopefully, take some more wins. Bring on Motegi!”
Monteiro cited testing carried out before the start of the season as a reason to be optimistic, despite his Honda team having only claimed one outright win so far this season.
“Although we do not know exactly how the Honda Civic will behave at this circuit, the tests we conducted last winter have given us confidence,” added Monteiro. “I am very eager to return to competition after such a long break, and I am hoping to be back on the podium and reclaiming my fourth place in the championship.
“We must not let any points slip through our fingers. We will have to use all our strengths and seize every opportunity that comes our way.”