Honda head to home territory at Twin Ring Motegi this weekend aiming to come away with the lead of the FIA World Touring Car Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships.
While Tiago Monteiro’s unfortunate absence from the event on medical grounds has removed one of the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team’s title contenders from the event, a strong performance remains the aim.
In Tiago’s absence, Norbert Michelisz becomes Honda’s main threat for the Drivers’ title and sits just two points away from the lead of the championship.
The Hungarian loves racing in Japan, and with good reason. He scored his first WTCC podium at Okayama in 2010, won at Suzuka in ’13 and last year claimed his first victory as a factory driver in the Opening Race at Motegi; leading home an incredible one-two-three for Honda.
Having finished on the podium in Japan for each of the past four years, Norbert knows that a big points haul could put him into the championship lead for the first time.
Deputising for Tiago this weekend is Esteban Guerrieri, who will be racing at Motegi for the first time.
The 32-year-old Argentinian has won twice in his first full season in the WTCC. He is seventh in the championship and is just seven points away from the lead of the WTCC Trophy for drivers from non-manufacturer teams with seven events completed.
Ryo Michigami is the only Japanese driver in the WTCC and, as such, can be assured of a warm welcome home by his legions of fans.
Motegi was the scene of his championship debut last year as a wildcard and he returns 12 months later with more experience of the front-wheel-drive Civic WTCC. He is ready to improve on the career-best pair of ninth-placed finishes he scored last time out in China.
For a second-straight event the Civic WTCCs will carry 80kg compensation weight, making them the heaviest cars in the championship.
Norbert Michelisz #5 : « I’ve never been as close to the lead of the championship as I am now and we have some great momentum, which is extremely exciting as we enter the final stages of the season. I’m happy to be going back to Japan because I’ve always had a very good record there with wins, podiums and pole positions. Of course, Motegi is Honda’s home circuit and I took my first win as a factory driver there last year, so that gives me even better memories, but this weekend is all about scoring big points and trying to take over the series lead. It’s a huge shame that Tiago is not ready to return, but I’ll be doing my very best for the team and for him. »
Esteban Guerrieri #86 : « I was sorry to hear that Tiago would not be able to race this weekend, but I’m extremely excited to have been given the opportunity to join Honda for Motegi and to drive a factory car in the WTCC. I’d also like to thank Campos Racing for their positivity throughout this process and to everybody who has helped in making my move to Honda possible. Motegi is a new circuit for me and I’ve never even driven the Civic WTCC, so I’m aware that there’s a lot to learn, but I’m confident that I can do a strong job of helping Honda in the Manufacturers’ Championship and supporting Norbi’s Drivers’ title ambitions. »
Ryo Michigami #34 : « The past few events have gone very well for me with my best WTCC qualifying in Argentina and my best race result in China, and I can feel the improvements with both the way I’m driving and the way I’m working with the team. Now I come to my home event at Motegi, where I made by WTCC debut last year. I’ve raced in Japan for most of my career and love how passionate the fans are for their favourite driver. As a team, I hope we can give the Honda fans something to be very proud. My aims are to improve my best results even more and to help Honda move further clear in the Manufacturers’ Championship. »