PRESS RELEASE – preview
While the FIA WTCC teams and drivers are preparing themselves for the Japanese round at the Suzuka International Circuit, Mehdi Bennani’s performance in China continues to be a cause for celebration in the Honda ranks. The Moroccan driver from the Italian Proteam Racing has achieved a momentous event in his career, as he scored his first win in WTCC after having led the race in Shanghai from start to finish.
“It is certainly a high point in my career to date”, Mehdi said, as he reflects on the win that made him a hero in his home country, “especially as this is the first win for the Civic WTCC this year. In Beijing I felt that the Civic had improved a lot, and the fact that I had the latest updates on my car certainly helped me to win the race. The last lap in Shanghai was the toughest, but also the most beautiful, lap of my career. When I saw the chequered flag, I felt very relieved!”
Mehdi Bennani scored his first win, while Tiago Monteiro scored important points by crossing the line in second and Norbert Michelisz drove some strong races in China, demonstrating the Civic progress in Race 2.
“I cannot comment on the performances of other drivers, but I know that we changed some things after the first race and that the car improved a lot”, said Tiago about his duel with José Maria Lopez. “It means a lot to come second, and if we look back at this season – in which we’ve successfully caught up with the competition – there are some tweaks that in hindsight we would have made to the car earlier. It’s great that we have got to such a strong position now, and this gives us a lot of confidence for the remaining races.”
In the build-up to the races at the Suzuka International Circuit, all eyes are on the Civic WTCC. That has a lot to do with the fact that the FIA WTCC races on Honda’s home circuit, the track where Norbert Michelisz dominated last year the first race from start to finish at the wheel of the Zengő Motorsport Civic.
“It felt like a dream to win a race at the home track of Honda,” says the Hungarian, who remembers the race like it was yesterday. “Ever since that day I consider Suzuka as my second home circuit, together with the Hungaroring obviously!”
Differing from the three former FIA WTCC races at Suzuka, which were held on the shorter East Circuit, the FIA WTCC drivers will this year drive on the 5.8 kms Grand Prix track. Having driven in two Japanese Grand Prix (2005 and 2006) Tiago Monteiro is well placed to reflect on Suzuka.
“You could compare Suzuka with Spa,” the Portuguese driver says, “and that better describes what really awaits us: it is one of the most beautiful race tracks in the world. As a driver you feel you can truly make a difference, and the crowd is always very emotional and enthusiastic!”
According to the calculations of the Compensation Weight, based on the three most recent meetings (Termas de Rio Hondo, Beijing Goldenport and Shanghai), 10 kg will be added to the minimum weight of the Civic WTCC.
“We will have to take this new handicap into account for Suzuka, but the good result in China really demonstrates that we are making great progress”, says Gabriele Tarquini. “This shows a lot of promise for the upcoming races, and that makes me very optimistic for the future.”
Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC development for Honda R & D, was extremely happy after the Shanghai races and is looking forward to the Suzuka weekend. “To lead from start to finish in Race 2, as well as taking second spot, is the best proof that we have made good progress in the development of the car. We hope that this progress will bring us another successful race at Suzuka.”