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‘World first’ for Tiago Monteiro after ‘amazing’ Slovakia weekend

Honda’s Tiago Monteiro has hailed his World Touring Car Championship weekend in Slovakia as ‘an amazing weekend’ after he won race one and became the first Portuguese driver to ever lead an FIA World Championship.

Monteiro took victory in the reverse-grid opening race at the Slovakiaring after a race-long duel with the independent Citroën of Mehdi Bennani, which he passed just two laps from the end.

The Honda driver then followed up his win with second in race two to pass José María López for the overall championship lead.

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That means that not only is it the first time Monteiro has left a WTCC event as the championship leader, but it is also the first time that López has not led the championship at the end of a day’s racing since joining full-time with Citroën in 2014.

“This has been an amazing weekend both for myself and for the team,” said a delighted Monteiro. “I made two fantastic starts, which were the key to both races and put me in a position each time to battle for victory.

“Mehdi Bennani drove really well in the opening race and made no mistakes, so it was tricky to judge when to make my move, but when I did, it worked and we were able to take the victory. I could smell the win in the main race too, but we just couldn’t quite make it.

“To have a first and a second though means this is my best weekend of my WTCC career and I’m the first Portuguese driver to ever lead an FIA World Championship, so I’m really, really delighted.”

JAS Motorsport Team Principal Alessandro Mariani also praised Monteiro’s efforts, which have contributed to Honda continuing to lead the manufacturer’s championship standings by three points over Citroën.

“I’m happy with the weekend,” added Mariani. “Tiago won the opening race and we have had three podium finishes, so that continues our record of finishing in the top three in every race this season.

“It could have been even better because an opportunity for Tiago to win race two, but it wasn’t quite possible because the tyre degradation for our rivals wasn’t quite as bad as we’d expected it to be and we weren’t quite able to capitalise.

“We are leading both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships, which is very good for the whole team and exactly where we hoped to be at this stage of the season.”

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