Tiago Monteiro says that claiming victory on the streets of his home circuit in Vila Real has a ‘very special meaning’ after the Honda driver took his first win since returning to racing.
Monteiro won the main FIA World Touring Car Cup in Portugal, cheered on by thousands of his home fans as he once again benefitted from finding form on the fast track.
The race did not immediately come to Monteiro, though, as he had to benefit from a faulty spark plug for pole-sitter and early leader Attila Tassi.
When his KCMG team-mate’s car started to falter on lap three, Monteiro seized the initiative and took the lead, holding off an initially stern challenge from the Lynk & Co of Yvan Muller to claim his first sprint win in almost two years.
Monteiro admits that he did have doubts about his comeback to racing after his huge testing shunt in Autumn 2017 which ended his challenge for the WTCC title that year.
“God knows how hard it was the last two years,” said Monteiro. “Many doubts, many question marks: am I able to come back? Am I able to drive? Am I able to be back at a good level?
“And after the beginning of the season it’s been very hard. It started well in Marrakech, but since then it’s been very tough.
“But you know, in 22 years of racing I’ve been through low moments many times and this is what I love actually is to fight back. And to put it all together here, I mean it has very special, special meaning.
“Honda, KCMG, JAS, all the team has been working so hard and it’s been tough. Really, really tough. The effort today is from amazing teamwork and I’m really proud to have been a part of this family for seven years now. This is their victory as well.
“Of course, the fans and the support here is unbelievable. The whole week, everywhere we go we we’re supported, not just me, I think every driver here.”
Monteiro praised the performance of his young team-mate Tassi, who he believes would have otherwise been victorious, with Monteiro being willing to settle for a podium on home soil.
“I would like to say is how frustrating it must be for my team-mate Attila. He did a fantastic job in qualifying, a fantastic lap. I tried everything I could, I took all the risks, but he did a little bit better and he took the pole.
“Unfortunately, he had a mechanical failure, it’s so hard because it would have been his first win.
“I would have been happy of course with a second or a third here, but somebody is always protecting me here in Vila Real.
“I have so much support that you need this little star. He’s suffering, but he’ll have many opportunities, he’s a great talent and he’ll be very strong and hard to beat.”
The 42-year-old also dedicated his win to the Cyan Racing mechanic who suddenly passed away on Saturday night after a sudden illness.
“And a small note of course for the mechanic who passed away last night, which is a small nightmare so this victory is dedicated to him.”