- Gabriele Tarquini shines in race two, claims 2nd place podium finish
- Four points-scoring finishes for the Honda Civic WTCCs
- Chaotic races brings drama but Honda Civics star in tense battles
In what can only be described as chaotic scenes from Shanghai following this morning’s opening race of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, Gabriele Tarquini has emerged heroic for the Castrol Honda team, changing the earlier fortunes to deliver a stunning podium result with 2nd from a valiant drive to the rostrum.
Recovering from a dismal earlier race which saw Tarquini return to the pits and out of the running with extensive damage, the Italian turned his luck around from lining up on the front row of the grid in P2 for the second race. As the lights went out, the Civic WTCC was immediately looking to lead the pack into turn 1 but for Hugo Valente threatening to push Tarquini further off line.
Undeterred, the Italian would fight back using all reserves to emerge ahead, leading the field over the ensuing nine laps before Yvan Muller closed in and found a way through. But if the second race was left wanting for more excitement, Tarquini didn’t disappoint; the next rival in the form of Jose-Maria Lopez. Race 1 victor, Lopez, set about challenging Tarquini for his 2nd place position and over the following five laps all eyes were firmly planted on the battling duo – Tarquini putting in one of his finest drives to keep the reigning world champion at bay at take a photobook finish.
In the sister Castrol Honda Civic, Monteiro salvaged further points with a sixth place finish whilst Michelisz (in a damaged Civic), kept busy with defending from Gregoire Demoustier, came home just outside in 11th.
In the day’s first race a catalogue of collisions off the line eliminated nearly half the grid as the first lap played out – drama starting with local favourite Ma Qing Hua seeming to stall on the grid. Directly behind, Gabriele Tarquini’s lightening reaction ensured the leading Castrol Honda Civic cleanly diverted away from danger as the pack took to avoiding tactics. Into turn 1, the Italian was already fighting for 4th, jostling for position with John Filipi and Rob Huff but within seconds race-changing commotion hit mid-pack with a spinning Filipi bunching the pack and forcing contact throughout the field – ending the race for both Tarquini and Huff, both suffering broken suspension.
Another good start from Monteiro further down the field brought the Portuguese racer straight into the fracas but despite sustaining rear suspension damage, sensible positioning made sure the #18 Civic avoided trouble, crossing the line in the points with an 8th place finish.
Zengo’s Norbert Michelisz was one of the lucky few to escape unscathed, taking the flag in 6th position following a clean battle with Nicholas Lapierre, making one of the few moves of the race to pass the Frenchman in the hairpin on the final lap.
Gabriele Tarquini (13th/2nd) “The first race was very frustrating but race two was very tense. I could take the start with two new tyres and that was good to make some margin in the first few laps. Unfortunately Yvan was close enough to launch an attack, to which I was ready to respond, but an electronic problem created a missed gear shift and I lost the lead because of that. Unfortunately for Lopez my gearbox worked perfectly after that and I could resist until the end. It was a great, very fair fight with Pechito and I hope the public could also enjoy it!”
Tiago Monteiro (8th/6th): “We Knew it would be a difficult weekend – hence our bad qualifying result – but as always the Civic proved to be really consistent in race pace. Also helped by a bit of luck, I could finish both times in the points despite starting from the back of the grid. I’m also happy because this race allowed us to discover new areas on which we can continue to work to improve the car.”
Norbert Michelisz (6th/11th): “Due to our position on the grid we had to take some risks in set up and it paid off! I had a really good car in race 1 and could – also helped by race incidents – climb from the 15th place up to 6th position. I am really positive for the future as with 40kg ballast on a circuit which is not in favour of the Civic, we managed quite good performances.”
Alessandro Mariani, Managing Director JAS Motorsport: “We didn’t find the right set up in qualifying but it worked very well in the races. I am really proud of all our drivers today they did a great job!”
Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC Development at Honda R&D: “Of course qualifying was a disappointment, but our race pace was good. Having to run with 40kg ballast on such a circuit has highlighted some areas on which we definitely can improve, this increases my confidence for the last races of the championship.”
Following an official investigation into race 1, the FIA have reviewed contact between Gabriele and Rob Huff and listened to both drivers. They have issued Gabriele with a 5-place grid drop penalty for Thailand.
Gabriele did accept and apologise to Rob for his part.
The results in both races from today stand.