WTCC / 28 November 2015

JAS-Built Honda Civics Take 5th & 6th in WTCC Championship at Season Finale

Norbert Michelisz is Independents? Driver Champion

The Castrol Honda team were hopeful of a change in fortunes following earlier disappointment in qualifying, but for Gabriele Tarquini the day’s first race would not be one to remember. Contact in turn 1 would see the #2 Civic running wide off track, rejoining down in last place and with a mammoth task ahead to salvage any potential for points – an opportunity which sadly didn’t present as the Italian took the flag in 16th.

Teammate Tiago Monteiro got a clean getaway off the line and progressed over the unfolding laps through the field from his 11th place grid position to a points-scoring 8th by chequered flag in an otherwise relatively quiet race as the pack calmed into rhythm.

Race two would bring a stronger set of points finishes; the duo making up an impressive seven positions between them in their JAS-built Civics. Running 8th and 9th respectively the order was set over the following laps when turn one contact near the back of the pack necessitated the safety car.

As the racing resumed some five laps later, Tarquini was locked in an engaging battle for 7th with Nicolas Lapierre whilst the front-running Honda of Michelisz was revelling in some close but clean competition with Sebastien Loeb.

Meantime Monteiro was under threat from race one winner, Jose Maria Lopez and, whilst the Argentine eventually found his way through, it wasn’t without challenge.

At the flag Michelisz ended the season finale with a perfect title-winning [Yokohama Drivers’ champion] result, followed by Tarquini in 7th from 14th and Monteiro in 9th from 11th.

Gabriele Tarquini (16th/7th) “In the first race I had contact in turn 1 and went off. After that I tried to rejoin the group but I was last. I fought a little bit with Nasser [Saleh Al-Attiyah] and Gregoire [Demoustier] but it wasn’t possible to progress any further after that. Race two was a little better but I had contact with an accident in front of me in turn 3. Luckily my car wasn’t damaged and afterwards I had a good fight with Nicolas [Lapierre]. The car was quite good; much better than qualifying and yesterday. But unfortunately I started further down the grid than I’d have liked and always that makes it harder to fight for the front.”

Tiago Monteiro (8th/9th): “It’s been a mixed event here, much like the whole season. We’ve had some bad luck, such as in Vila Real or Paul Ricard but sometimes things haven’t worked out then the next time they have – it’s racing. Qualifying today wasn’t as we’d planned but we managed to take points in both races which is important.

“Overall we’ve shown progress throughout the year and despite the setbacks, we still took three victories on track so we can be happy with our performance over the season.”

Norbert Michelisz (7th/3rd) “I’m really happy. I have said many times that finishing as high as possible in the overall standings is more important but this win is special because I have been feeling extra pressure. Over the past two or three races I have been watching Mehdi’s performance, which has been impressive. I knew before I arrived here that I need a perfect race weekend. Mehdi is on top of his game and has done a great job – he deserved a top spot too. I always want to say congratulations and thank you to my team. All the guys at Zengo work so hard and I think sometimes to the outside they overlook just how much effort the team put in. Thank you.”

Alessandro Mariani, Managing Director JAS Motorsport: “We tried a new setup yesterday, but it didn’t work properly so by the end we came back and the final pace was pretty satisfactory in the races. I am very happy because of Norbi’s success in the Yokohama Trophy and also the pace of all three cars, in spite of the contact in the first corner, was good. As usual our race was better than qualifying. Now we need to think about next year and come back stronger….”

Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC Development at Honda R&D: “I am very glad that Norbi was able to get the Yokohama Drivers’ title and congratulate him and Zengo for that success. For Gabriele and Tiago the results weren’t as hoped coming into the weekend but after qualifying earlier I think the points finishes are the best we could do. It has been a challenging weekend and we need to make further effort to improve overall performance for next year.”