FIA WTCR RACE OF PORTUGAL PREVIEW: MONTEIRO HOPING HISTORY REPEATS IN VILA REAL | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

FIA WTCR RACE OF PORTUGAL PREVIEW: MONTEIRO HOPING HISTORY REPEATS IN VILA REAL

01.07.22

Three years after he was roared to victory on the streets of Vila Real, home hero Tiago Monteiro will lead the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup’s eagerly anticipated return to the epicentre of northern Portuguese motor racing later this week.

With the brake dust still settling following an all-action WTCR Race of Spain weekend at MotorLand Aragón, the series heads west to an iconic round-the-houses track that has been kept off the calendar since 2019 due to the global health pandemic.

But it’s back from July 1-3 for the WTCR’s 100th race, which includes the ground-breaking Joker Lap, used in an FIA-sanctioned motor race for the first time in 2017 when it was added to the challenging Vila Real layout to further spice up the action.

Inspired by the FIA World Rallycross Championship, the Joker Lap provides a passing opportunity on a circuit where overtaking isn’t always so straightforward. It must be taken by all drivers but not during the first two laps following the start or during a safety car intervention or full-course yellow.

The Joker Lap is located at the roundabout that helps to form the final corner of the 4.790-kilometre circuit following a fast, downhill section. Instead of keeping to the right, the Joker Lap takes drivers on an alternative and slower route to the left. It adds 86 metres to the full lap and the name of the game is to ensure positions are not lost but, potentially, gained.

Calling the moment at which drivers take their Joker Lap puts the onus on the teams to get the strategy just right, while the pressure on drivers not to slip up is huge, as Monteiro explained

“The timing and the decision between you and the team has to be perfect and it can really play to your advantage,” said Monteiro, who races a Goodyear-equipped Honda Civic Type R TCR for LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler. “When you commit to it the adrenalin is crazy because you know you can’t mess it up but at the same time you can’t be too safe, otherwise you’re going to lose a position or you won’t be able to overtake. It’s such a high-energy, high-adrenalin moment for the drivers.

“Two years ago Yvan [Muller] was really close to me and I knew I had to do the Joker Lap perfectly in order to come out in front of him because he was coming quick and I knew if he got in front then I wasn’t going to overtake again. I knew I needed to nail it and my heart went over 200 beats.”

While Monteiro will be a key part of the decision-making process, he relies on his race engineer for guidance when it comes to Joker Lap timing. “The team has a better view of what’s going. I could make the call but the team knows what pace the others are doing and where they are on the track, if they have been blocked or have free air. But you also have to be aware of what’s going on.”

 

MONTEIRO’S COMEBACK VICTORY REMAINS THE STUFF OF LEGEND

Tiago Monteiro was the hero of Portugal following his emotionally-charged home WTCR win on the streets of Vila Real on July 7, 2019. The now 45-year-old, who lives less than one hour from Vila Real, suffered serious head and neck injuries in a testing crash in September 2017. He was on course to win the FIA World Touring Car Championship that season but fought a long and arduous recovery to return to racing instead.

He took the lead of the Vila Real weekend’s third and final race when his Honda-powered team-mate Attila Tassi hit trouble with a spark plug issue, holding his nerve to the finish for his first victory since he triumphed in Hungary two years previously.

“Winning that race was the best you can hope for as a driver in a world series,” said Monteiro. “It’s always amazing to win but in your home country, in a place where you are so welcomed and there is so much passion for what you do is just incredible. For sure the victory was more emotional compared to the previous ones because of the accident and the difficulties and the uncertainties of the recovery. It was my first win after the accident. Everybody was so happy I won but it had a special meaning for me.”

Monteiro entered the Vila Real weekend three years ago off form to the point he languished in P14 in Qualifying for Race 1. But an overnight transformation got him and team-mate Tassi back on track with Tassi taking pole for Race 3 and Monteiro joining him on the front row of the grid.

“We thought we were having a tough season back then but, to be honest, this one is probably even harder,” Monteiro said. “Sometimes you have better seasons, sometimes you have harder ones and we have struggled to be competitive even though the team are doing a great job and working very hard. On paper I’m not super-optimistic about our chances in Vila Real. But we have a strong and efficient car on street tracks and hopefully this trend of the Honda Civic will overcome the difficulties we have and that things turn around.”

 

WTCR ALL SET TO TURN 100 IN VILA REAL

Race 2 in Vila Real will mark the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup’s 100th race since the series fired into life on the streets of Marrakech, Morocco, in April 2018. The WTCR drivers will gather in Vila Real to celebrate the milestone, while a media information kit will be issued ahead of the event charting all the winners and the key numbers.

 

VILA REAL WINNERS AND NEWCOMERS IN ACTION

Mikel Azcona, Thed Björk, Norbert Michelisz, Tiago Monteiro and Yvan Muller have all won on the streets of Vila Real since the WTCR made its first visit in 2018. Michelisz and Monteiro were also winners in the town during the FIA World Touring Car Championship era when Mehdi Bennani, Tom Coronel and Ma Qing Hua triumphed. Of the 17 drivers taking part in WTCR Race of Portugal, only Gilles Magnus and Santiago Urrutia have no previous experience of the challenging track.

 

 

WTCR RACE OF PORTUGAL ESSENTIALS

Rounds: 9 and 10 of 20

Date: July 1-3

Venue: Circuito Internacional de Vila Real
Location: Av. Carvalho Araújo 7, 5000-651 Vila Real
Length: 4.790 kilometres
Race 1 distance: 30 minutes + 1 lap
Race 2 distance: 25 minutes + 1 lap

WTCR lap record (qualifying): Attila Tassi (Honda Civic Type R TCR) 1m59.445s (144.30kph), 07/07/19
WTCR lap record (race): Mikel Azcona (CUPRA TCR) 2m02.360s (140.9kph), 07/07/19

 

Timetable:

Saturday June 25

Saturday July 2

09h00-09h45: Free Practice 1

12h00-12h45: Free Practice 2

17h05-17h35: Qualifying Q1

17h40-17h55: Qualifying Q2

18h05-18h20: Qualifying Q3

 

Sunday July 3

13h10: Race 1 (30 minutes+1 lap)

17h15: Race 2 (25 minutes+1 lap)

 

WTCR Race of Portugal winners 2021 (Circuito do Estoril):

Race 1: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR

Race 2: Attila Tassi (HUN) ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR

WTCR Race of Portugal winners 2019 (Circuito Internacional de Vila Real):

Race 1: Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 2: Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR
Race 3: Tiago Monteiro (PRT) Honda Civic Type R TCR

 

WTCR Race of Portugal winners 2018 (Circuito Internacional de Vila Real):
Race 1: 
Yvan Muller (FRA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 2: Mato Homola (SVK) Peugeot 308 TCR
Race 3: Thed Björk (SWE) Hyundai i30 N TCR

 

WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup entry list 2022

5 Norbert Michelisz (HUN) BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR

9 Attila Tasi (HUN) LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler, Honda Civic Type R TCR

11 Thed Björk (SWE) Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR

12 Santiago Urrutia (URY) Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR

16 Gilles Magnus (BEL) Comtoyou Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

17 Nathanaël Berthon (FRA) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

18 Tiago Monteiro (PRT) LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler, Honda Civic Type R TCR

25 Mehdi Bennani (MAR) Comtoyou Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

29 Néstor Girolami (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR

33 Tom Coronel (NLD) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

55 Ma Qing Hua (CHN) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR

68 Yann Ehrlacherr (FRA) Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR

79 Rob Huff (GBR) Zengő Motorsport, CUPRA Leon Competición

86 Esteban Guerrieri (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR

96 Mikel Azcona (ESP) BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR

99 Dániel Nagy (HUN) Zengő Motorsport, CUPRA Leon Competición

100 Yvan Muller (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR

 

WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup for Drivers provisional standings

1 Mikel Azcona, 129 points

2 Gilles Magnus, 95 points

3 Santiago Urrutia, 93 points

4 Rob Huff, 93 points

5 Yann Ehrlacher, 92 points

 

WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup for Teams provisional standings

1 BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, 165 points

2 Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, 155

3 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, 150 points

4 Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, 138

5 Comtoyou Team Audi Sport, 127

 

WTCR Trophy provisional standings

1 Rob Huff, 63 points

2 Mehdi Bennani, 32

3 Tom Coronel, 26

4 Dániel Nagy, 23

 

Click HERE to view the full provisional standings