Honda have revealed that Ryo Michigami will join their three-car assault on the World Touring Car Championship in 2017, lining up alongside Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz.
Michigami, who took part in the WTCC Race of Japan in 2016, will thus become the first full-time Japanese racer in the championship.
The 43-year-old’s début comes after former champion Rob Huff left the team after just one season to reunite with the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport squad.
The former Super GT champion is looking forward to using his experience to help Honda to deliver the title in 2017.
“As a Japanese driver, I’m extremely proud to be given the opportunity to represent a Japanese manufacturer in a World Championship,” said Michigami. “I’m aware that this season will be a huge challenge for me, but I will use all the experience I have gained during my career in Japan and I am incredibly motivated to perform strongly across the season.
“I want to make this the pinnacle of my life in motorsport and together with Honda, JAS Motorsport, Tiago and Norbi, I will make the maximum effort possible to achieve this. I would also like to thank everybody in advance for their help and support in 2017.”
Masashi Yamamoto, General Manager of Honda Motor Co Ltd’s Motor Sports Division, adds that the marque is aiming to win both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in 2017, following the departure of their most fierce rival – Citroën – in 2016.
“In 2017 we are delighted to partner Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz – two of the world’s finest touring car racers – with Ryo Michigami, whom we welcome into the Honda works team as the first Japanese driver to contest a full season in the FIA World Touring Car Championship,” said Yamamoto. With a long and successful career in Japan behind him, we are confident that he will make the very best of his opportunity.
“With a strong driver line-up and a Civic WTCC that has been made even more competitive during the winter, our aim is to win the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles this year. Finally, I’d like to thank Rob Huff for his enormous contribution to the WTCC programme in 2016 and to wish him the very best for the future.”
Monteiro enters his fifth consecutive season with Honda in 2017, having enjoyed a career-best season in 2016.
Michelisz enters his second season as a works driver this year, but the Hungarian has now got four years’ experience racing Civics under his belt, having campaigned them in the Independents category between 2013 and 2015.