Tiago Monteiro says that ‘Suzuka just seems to work’ for him after the Honda driver scored pole position for the first FIA World Touring Car Cup race on Saturday and a front row start for race three on Sunday in Friday’s qualifying sessions.
Monteiro had never previously taken a WTCR pole, but the KCMG driver was on form on Friday, acing the wet conditions in the first of two qualifying sessions on Friday.
Despite multiple red-flag stoppages, Monteiro remained on top for much of the session, even improving his time late on as other drivers threatened to depose him from the top spot.
Monteiro then went second fastest in the three-part second qualifying session later in the day, which took place on a drying circuit.
The Portuguese racer was only bettered by SLR’s Johan Kristoffersson, who was 0.153 seconds faster in the all-important Q3 segment.
“Suzuka seems to work for me,” said Monteiro. “I returned to racing here last year which was a very emotional moment. Since then I had a win at my home race in Portugal and now this – I’m so, so happy.
“We are a heavy car here, but the rain has helped us a little bit. I’m liking this fairytale.”
Monteiro admits that he likes racing at Suzuka, which is not only where he first raced for Honda back in 2012 but also the venue where he made his return to racing last year after his huge accident in 2017.
“I like this track and the Honda likes the conditions too, so I felt comfortable right away. The conditions were tricky, but the car did exactly what I wanted.
“It’s hard to keep your concentration in a 90-minute session with all the stoppages, but I pushed hard and tried to get the best out of it.
“I’m so happy with pole and a front-row start. Today was a very important day. Things were either going to go very right or very wrong, so I’m glad it was the former.
“It’s impossible to know what will happen tomorrow, but we’re focused on a good result.”