The final event of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship reflected the highs and lows of the sport with three Honda Civics taking an impressive result in Race 1 and then the heartbreak of losing a potential victory in the very last laps of Race 2.
In Race 1 the Honda Civics of Norbert Michelisz, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro finished in 2nd, 3rd and 4th places to confirm the continuing rise in competitive performance throughout the long season.
For Tiago Monteiro victory in Race 2 looked certain with just two laps remaining and the Castrol Honda well in command of the race. A late safety car session bunched the field but still Tiago held his lead heading for the flag until a steering fault ended his race with just a lap to run.
In Race 1 Michelisz made a lightning start from row 2 to dive into second place at the very first corner. Equally quickly off the start, Tarquini and Monteiro held 4th and 5th places on lap 1 as the high-speed train settled into the hectic 10 laps. The battle went on for the entire race with the three Honda Civics running nose to tail around the tight 6 km lap. Michelisz took second at the flag with Tarquini using the very last ounce of stamina to get to the finish ahead of team-mate Monteiro.
“When the lights went out I got a really good grip and fought for the first corner. It is so important round here with almost no chance of passing,” said Norbi as he headed for the podium.
Tarquini looked ill on the podium but took pride in his third place finish. In the end he did not contest the second race.
“I felt really ill today after having a high temperature yesterday and it was very hard in Race 1, especially at the end. I was happy that I finished the last lap. I prepared myself for the race 2 and did the formation lap but then decided to not take the start.”
For Mehdi Bennani it was a back-marker who moved across just as the Moroccan was passing and the resulting contact put the Proteam Racing Civic into the wall and out for the weekend.
“What a shame, what a weekend!” exclaimed Mehdi. “I only managed to get 2 clear laps in qualifying so did not have a good grid position but after the start I was able to fight back and climbing up to 9th and into the points. That was till that car made the movement on the straight.”
In Race 2 Tiago Monteiro made his best start of the year, the Castrol Honda slicing between the two front row cars to snatch the lead at the fast, first corner. The Portuguese star then drove away from the opposition in commanding style to have a two seconds advantage by lap 8 of the ten lap race. With the safety car deployed the field closes up and the restart is vital. Tiago held his position and looked certain for victory only to be robbed of his podium by a mechanical problem almost within sight of the flag.
“I’m disappointed of course,” said Tiago. “After this magnificent start and leading the race for 8 laps, the victory was so close. The fight between Huff and Muller behind me was a help to keep the gap for first. After the safety car with just 1 more lap to run, my car had overheating issues causing power steering problems and I just could not keep the pace and my position.”
To complete a superb weekend in Macau Norbert Michelisz brought the Zengő Motorsport Civic home in 4th place in race 2 and in so doing the young Hungarian achieved his season’s ambition.
“My target this weekend was to score points and to try to be the best Honda driver again. Now I have finished 4th on the Drivers World Championship just ahead of Tiago and Gabriele so I am very happy. I know how important the start is in Macau and it worked well for race 1. The second race was more difficult but I got the target right by scoring more points.”
The weekend in Macau have pleased Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC development from Honda R & D. “I’m very happy with the performance of the engine. We confirmed this with the results from race 1 and the performance in race 2. It’s a pity that this was not underlined with a victory.”
Alessandro Mariani, managing director of J.A.S. Motorsport, said: “We were controlling the race and the pace was perfect. Like we said before we know that the car is a lot quicker in race configuration especially comparing with the opposition here in Macau. Without the safety car at the end of race 2 we could have won. For sure.”