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Unknown elements for Honda in Qatar

Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro head into the unknown for this weekend’s World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) finale in Qatar, which will also host the first-ever night race in the series.

Both works Honda drivers are battling for the honour of ‘best of the rest’ behind the four works Citroën drivers, although Tarquini himself also has a shot at finishing the year in fourth overall, as the Italian is 22 points behind Ma Qing Hua.

Preparing for the WTCC’s début at the Losail International Circuit has not been easy, however, as there is no meaningful data or footage for the drivers to analyse.

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“Of course it’s another new track and one I have only seen pictures of,” explained Tarquini. “Having not been there before I tried to find videos from on-board cameras in car racing but there isn’t much available – it’s mainly bike footage. I did try watching those in order to understand the technicalities of the track but needless to say, it’s not the same and not much help! We know it’s a long lap, over 5km, but I can’t say much about speeds, corners, etc.”

Tarquini also ads that he has little experience of night racing, although the 53-year-old did compete in night races in his BTCC days at both Snetterton and Silverstone in 2000.

“Night racing is also new for the WTCC,” added Tarquini. “Like several of the others, I have done 24 hr racing in the past but that was around 20 years ago! But again it is very different – endurance racing isn’t about top speed throughout, unlike our WTCC sprint races. So that’s another new element that we all have to adjust to.

“I am really excited about the experience – it’s good for us to have new challenges and it should be a good spectacle for viewers.”

Meanwhile Monteiro is optimistic of being able to adapt to the new circuit quickly and hopes to end his season on a high to make up for the disappointment of being excluded from victory in Thailand last time out.

“I really enjoy discovering new tracks and usually adapt quite quickly – out of four new tracks so far I have taken two victories so I hope that theme continues,” said Monteiro. “The layout is really interesting and definitely looks to be a great experience racing at night.

“Unfortunately I lost a lot of points following Thailand exclusion, which is really disappointing for me and the team, but I go to Qatar putting that behind me and coming back stronger, ready to challenge on track and end the season on a high note.”

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