WTCR : First WTCR visit to historic Vallelunga for Honda Racing drivers

Honda Racing’s WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup drivers head to new territory this weekend as they prepare for the series’ inaugural visit to the Vallelunga circuit in Italy.

Located north of Rome, Vallelunga is a classic venue and the same 3.222-kilometre Historic International layout that will be used by the WTCR has hosted some iconic moments in touring car racing history.

More recently, the circuit hosted the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games in 2019, which included the Touring Car Cup for TCR cars – in which a Honda Civic Type R TCR claimed third place in the second race.

Both Honda customer teams head to Italy with momentum to build on following podiums earlier in July in Vila Real.

Nestor Girolami claimed his third top-three finish of the season with a hard-fought third place in Portugal, and enters the Vallelunga weekend the highest-placed of the Honda Racing drivers in fifth.

‘Bebu’, like the rest of the Honda contingent, carries some confidence into the weekend knowing the Civic Type R TCR will drop compensation weight for the first time in 2022 since it was applied for the second round of the season.

His ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team-mate Esteban Guerrieri is looking to bounce back from a difficult Vila Real round that was compromised by issues in qualifying.

Argentinian Esteban has previous experience at Vallelunga, winning twice on his visit to the track in 2003 during his junior single-seater career.

The weekend will be the first in Tiago Monteiro’s illustrious career in which he has competed at the circuit, although he was present during the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s pre-season test at Vallelunga in 2016 and has also tested a Formula 1 car at the track.

Tiago’s start to the campaign has been far from straightforward but the Portuguese remains resolute as he and LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler attempt to keep improving.

Team-mate Attila Tassi will also be making his first appearance at Vallelunga, doing so following his best result of the season to date last time out.

The Hungarian took a second place in Race Two in Vila Real – the 100th race for the WTCR – giving LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler its first podium as a Honda WTCR customer.

An hour-long testing session will be held on Friday afternoon, with the rest of the Vallelunga weekend commencing as normal with FP1 at 9am local time on Saturday morning.

The visit also marks the home race of JAS Motorsport, Honda’s long-standing motorsport partner and builder of the Civic Type R TCR.

Néstor Girolami #29 – ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport : « It’s going to be great to have touring cars racing on a circuit that is so demanding and so exciting to drive, especially on this layout with the fast Esses in the middle of the lap. We have tested there so I think we have a good baseline to start with; even if the temperatures were different and the FP0 session equalises the field a bit, we will start with good track knowledge. My target for the weekend is to close the gap to the leaders considering that we are lighter than at previous rounds. Qualifying will be really important because I think it will be tough to overtake, so we will push to be at the very least in Q3. »

Esteban Guerrieri #86 – ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport : « I have good memories from Vallelunga after winning twice the last time I raced there in 2003 on the same layout we will use this weekend. It’s a fun track with very challenging corners, particularly Turn 1, which is flat out but a bit bumpy, and also the Trincea left-hander on the back straight. I really like the track but we will have to keep an eye on the weather because it will be very hot and tyre degradation could be an issue, but let’s see how it goes. We haven’t been up there in the last couple of events, so hopefully we can score big points; a first podium of the year or a win would be great. »

Tiago Monteiro #18 – LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler : « Vallelunga is a different track from what we’ve had so far this season, as it’s a little bit old-school mixed with some more modern features. I have never raced there, but we did some testing and development work there with the Honda Civic WTCC some years ago. It will be great to be back in Italy and although I have no real idea what the Civic Type R TCR can do there in terms of performance, we hope to continue the improvements we noticed at Vila Real, even though it was a street track. Vallelunga is more typical in comparison, although it looks like there could be some interesting styles of corner for our car. »

Attila Tassi #9 – LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler : « Considering the difficulties we had at the start of the season, it was great to secure our first podium in Portugal and I hope it is a springboard for consistently strong finishes for the rest of the year. As Vallelunga is a new track to race at we have to be slightly cautious in our expectations, but having less compensation weight will be a big plus, especially on traction through the slower corners in the final sector of the lap. Having a test session on Friday is going to be a big help, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge of learning the track quickly. »