Race Track / 05 October 2014

Honda Civics battle for results in both races

FIA WTCC - Beijing Goldenport Park Circuit - Race Report

Typical race incidents and bad luck hindered the chances of the Honda Civics taking podium places in Race 1 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at the Goldenport  Motorpark Circuit in Beijing.

Gabriele Tarquini lost third position with just 4 laps to go to the chequered flag when he ran over material on the track and suffered a puncture. He was quickly into the pits for a replacement but after two further laps retired to be ready for the second race. Norbert Michelisz suffered severe tyre wear but managed to complete the 28 lap race in 6th position. Mehdi Bennani suffered a puncture on the very last lap but managed to finish in 9th position. Tiago Monteiro went out on lap 13 after contact with another competitor damaged the rear suspension forcing his early retirement.

Tarquini started the race from the front row of the grid having set an impressive second fastest time overall in yesterday’s qualifying sessions. He was beaten to the first corner by the former champion, Yvan Muller but did well to defend his position against the attack of current points leader Lopez. After just 2 laps the safety car was deployed to enable two crashed cars to be removed. When racing restarted after 8 laps Tarquini hung on to the tail of Muller’s car but by lap 12 the Italian was under pressure from Lopez. By lap 20 Gabriele was 1.1seconds behind Muller whilst leader Chilton had a 5 seconds advantage. Michelisz had taken 6th position and Bennani 9th.

Tarquini ran over some material on the track and sustained a puncture to a front tyre. He raced into the pits where the JAS Motorsport mechanics quickly changed the wheel but after another two laps on track it was decided to bring Tarquini in to prepare the car fully for the restart of Race 2. Michelisz completed the 28 laps in 6th position and Bennani brought the Proteam Racing Civic home in 9th position.

Although there is just 15 minutes of repair time allowed between the two races the Honda Civics were ready for the second challenge of the day with Tarquini in P9 while Monteiro had to start from the back of the grid. Norbert Michelisz converted his 3rd row starting position to 4th overall on lap 1 whilst Gabriele joined battle once more with Muller and Chilton a dice that would last the whole 26 laps. Michelisz was under extreme pressure from Lopez by lap 16, the Argentinian setting fastest lap of the race in his attempt to catch the Hungarian’s Civic. Norbert lost the place on lap 16 but completed the race in 5th position to complement his 6th position in race 1.

Tarquini was never more than half a second behind Muller for the whole race, both involved in an entertaining four-car high-speed train. Gabriele finished 10th overall and Tiago 13th after a lonely 26 laps. Mehdi Bennani retired on lap 6 having taken a drive-through penalty and then experiencing steering problems.

Gabriele was unhappy with himself. “I had the wrong start strategy for Race 1 and then in the end hit something on the track and got the puncture. For Race 2 it was simply impossible to overtake.”

For Tiago finishing Race 2 was important. “The suspension damage from Race 1 made the car less than perfect so it was important for me to finish the race. Our race results did not reflect the good performance we had in practice but that’s racing! At least I am still 4th in the Driver’s Championship points table”

Norbert Michelisz, who delivered the best results of the weekend for Honda,  was happier with his tyre performance in race 2. “I made a good start in the second race but in the end it was impossible to keep Lopez behind but I did the maximum to secure 5th place for Honda and Zengo Motorsport.”

Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC development from Honda R & D expressed the disappointment of the team. “The improved performance was not transmitted in the results, you can’t see this progress we have achieved in both the engine and the chassis because of some bad racing luck.”

Alessandro Mariani, Managing Director of J.A.S. Motorsport was also unhappy with the ultimate results. “Because of circumstances on track we had a bad weekend. Tiago missed his chance in Q2, Gabriele didn’t make a good start in Race 1 and it is very difficult to overtake on this tight circuit. On the positive side we did a good job on improving the car and the pace was good.”

Result Race 1: 1. Tom Chilton (GB) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 28 laps; 2. Yvan Muller (F) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 2.493; 3. José Maria Lopez (ARG) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 5.132; 4. Gianni Morbidelli (I) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 10.473; 5. Sébastien Loeb (F) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 14.455; 6. Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Honda Civic WTCC, 17.238; 7. James Thompson (GB) Lada Granta 1.6T, 18.338; 8. Rob Huff (GB) Lada Granta 1.6T, 19.104; 9. Mehdi Bennani (MAR) Honda Civic WTCC, 37.966; 10. Franz Engstler (D) BMW E90 320 TC, 54.871; 11. Mikhail Kozlovskiy (RUS) Lada Granta 1.6T, 1 lap; 12. Hugo Valente (F) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 1 lap; 13. John Filippi (F) SEAT Leon WTCC, 2 laps; 14. Filipe De Souza (MAC) BMW E90 320 TC, 3 laps; 15. Qinq Hua MA (CHN) Citroën C-Elysee WTCC, 4 laps; 16. Gabriele Tarquini (I) Honda Civic WTCC, 4 laps; 17. Tom Coronel (NL) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 6 laps.

Result Race 2: 1. Rob Huff (GB) Lada Granta 1.6T, 26 laps; 2. Tom Coronel (NL) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 0.766; 3. Sébastien Loeb (F) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 3.072; 4. José Maria Lopez (ARG) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 3.102; 5. Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Honda Civic WTCC, 8.673; 6. James Thompson (GB) Lada Granta 1.6T, 9.938; 7. Gianni Morbidelli (I) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 11.111; 8. Tom Chilton (GB) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 11.553; 9. Yvan Muller (F) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 12.463; 10. Gabriele Tarquini (I) Honda Civic WTCC, 12.805; 11. Hugo Valente (F) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 19.571; 12. MA Qing Hua (CHN) Citroën C-Elysee WTCC, 21.714; 13. Tiago Monteiro (PRT) Honda Civic WTCC, 24.261; etc.

Driver’s Championship : 1. José Maria Lopez (ARG) 339; 2. Yvan Muller (FR) 273; 3. Sébastien Loeb (FR) 238;  4. Tiago Monteiro (PRT) 146; 5. Gabriele Tarquini (I) 126; 6. Norbert Michelisz (HUN), Tom Coronel (NL) 118; 8. Tom Chilton (GB) 117;  9. Gianni Morbidelli (I) 103; 10. Rob Huff (GB) 66; 11. Mehdi Bennani (MAR) 59; etc.

Manufacturer’s Championship: 1. Citroën 769; 2. Honda 499; 3. LADA 305