Tiago Monteiro got his faltering FIA World Touring Car Championship season firmly back on track with an emotional home win at WTCC Race of Portugal today. The erstwhile title leader has been on the back foot following exclusion in Morocco and a spectacular crash in Germany. But it all came good for the Honda ace on the challenging streets of Vila Real. Despite the race-long attentions of Citroën’s Yvan Muller, Monteiro, who started from the DHL pole position, did not crack under pressure to win the Main Race from Muller and Honda team-mate Norbert Michelisz.
OPENING RACE REPORT: CORONEL SOAKS UP WTCC PRESSURE
Tom Coronel scored his second Opening Race victory of the FIA World Touring Championship season by keeping Tom Chilton at bay on the streets of Vila Real. Coronel made a fantastic start from pole in his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze, while Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën driver Chilton squeezed past the LADA of Nicky Catsburg through the opening turns.
From there, the two Toms were inseparable as they pulled away from the rest, but although Chilton kept the pressure on his former team-mate and WTCC Trophy rival, with less than six tenths of a second splitting them at the finish, he was unable to prevent the Dutchman repeating his triumph from Marrakech.
Catsburg completed the podium after soaking up the pressure of a train of cars behind him, which was led by Chilton’s team-mate Mehdi Bennani. Championship leader José María López set the fastest lap late on but had to settle for fifth.
Rob Huff was the leading Honda finisher and took sixth place away from Volvo driver Thed Björk with a good move on the penultimate lap, with the pair going side-by-side through several corners. Norbert Michelisz was eighth in front of Yvan Muller, with home hero Tiago Monteiro P10 and avoiding trouble ahead of the Main Race.
MAIN RACE REPORT: MONTEIRO SCORES MAJESTIC WTCC HOME WIN
Tiago Monteiro thrilled the huge Vila Real crowds with a superb home Main Race win at FIA WTCC Race of Portugal. Honda driver Monteiro led from the DHL pole position to chequered flag after making a great start, but he was pursued hard all the way by Yvan Muller.
Though he managed to briefly build a lead of over a second at one stage, the final margin over the Citroën driver was 0.821 seconds. The Portuguese star was greeted by hundreds of jubilant – and noisy – fans at the podium ceremony following his second win of the 2016.
Norbert Michelisz completed the podium after resisting an attack from team-mate Rob Huff late on, with Honda securing a 1-3-4 finish. Championship leader José María López was able to stay in touch with the lead group for much of the race but dropped back towards the end and finished only a second in front of Volvo driver Thed Björk. Björk kept fast-starting LADA driver Nicky Catsburg at bay, with the Dutchman himself under pressure for a while from WTCC Trophy winner Mehdi Bennani (the pair made slight contact at the first corner as Catsburg forced his way through) before shaking him off towards the end.
Catsburg’s team-mate Hugo Valente made an ever better start, gaining four places to climb to ninth, which he maintained until the end under pressure from Tom Chilton. Opening Race winner Tom Coronel made a false start from P10 on the grid and was given a drive-through penalty, finishing P16.
CITROËN CHARGES TO WTCC MAC3 VICTORY
Citroën took a closely-fought victory in the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s Manufacturers Against the Clock (WTCC MAC3) contest on the high-speed streets of Vila Real on Saturday afternoon – by less than three tenths of a second. A less-than-ideal start from José María López left Citroën down on Honda after the first sector of the two-lap team time trial, but the double world champion rallied and caught Yvan Muller and Tom Chilton ahead of him to cut the TAG Heuer timing beam with a time that was 0.283 seconds quicker than Honda had managed. Home hero Tiago Monteiro had helped Honda to a strong pair of laps in the Tour de France-inspired competition but the Japanese manufacturer had to make do with second place.
LADA finished third, eight seconds off the pace after Gabriele Tarquini slid wide in the chicane in the middle of the lap.
Citroën’s narrow winning margin was the third closest in WTCC MAC3 history and earned it 10 points towards the WTCC Manufacturers’ championship, much to Team Principal Yvan Matton’s delight: “For sure after qualifying it was not sure that we would be able to fight for the victory because we were concerned with some problems on Jose’s car,” he said. “But with some new wheels everything was working properly and we are very happy.”
Photos FIA WTCC