After a tough few years since his return from injury, Honda’s Tiago Monteiro put on a display of form at the Nürburgring which reminded everyone why he has been a championship contender in the past.
A very popular victory in race one, followed up with a solid eighth place finish in race two means that the Portuguese ace finds himself second overall in the drivers’ standings – the highest he has featured since leading the WTCC standings in 2017 before his ill-fated accident.
Naturally, Monteiro was overjoyed with the result, especially after race one.
“It was definitely one of those great races when you try [to] line everything in your head and everything goes to plan,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often, especially not here at the Nordschleife.
“But after a rough start when I lost a few positions, the pace was good and I was in a rhythm with the top four. So I kept on pushing, kept my cool and focus to try to position myself for the last lap.
“There was some contact in front of me, I took the opportunity to move to P2 right away and after that it was just a matter of following Yvan [Muller] and then try something later on in the race.
Indeed, the game of chess that ensued between himself and the four-time world champion around the Nordschleife had everyone on the edge of their seats.
“It was a good fight with him, he’s a hard racer but a very fair racer,” Monteiro said. “So I knew I could fight with him until the end.
“I took a lot of risks of course, but you’re here and that’s the moment you have to do it and go for it.”
In truth all four Hondas had looked incredibly sharp throughout qualifying and race day. Evidently the crew at Münnich Motorsport had put plenty of effort into this weekend, so a victory for Monteiro was the perfect way to thank them.
“The car was very good, I’m very happy with the team, Honda, ALL-INKL of course and JAS for all the updates we have done over the winter.” said the former F1 driver.
“Everyone in the team showed the performance in the car this weekend on the Nordschleife and it was great to start the season with a win. It was a very high-adrenaline moment today.”
Elsewhere within the Honda stable, Attila Tassi also showed good pace in Germany, though couldn’t quite turn his form into the same sort of results that Monteiro managed.
Nevertheless, if this was a sign of things to come from the young Hungarian, then he should be set for an impressive 2021 campaign.
“I took it cautiously in race one because I wanted to preserve the car,” Tassi explained. “So I really didn’t risk a lot at the start.
“On the Nordschleife the balance wasn’t perfect but my pace was good, and I managed to overtake one car lap-by-lap to come home in 12th.
“I had a great start in race two – again I tried not to take any risks but I positioned myself very nicely to get up to sixth and made up two more places before the final lap.
“After that I had a vibration so I took it carefully and managed to hold onto fourth. I’m glad we managed that issue and ended the weekend on a positive note after a disappointing qualifying.”
Münnich Motorsport and the rest of the WTCR field will be in action again at the end of the month, as the World Touring Car circuit heads to Estoril in Portugal – Monteiro’s home race – for round two.