Honda enforces WTCC commitment with three-car entry
Michigami replaces Rob Huff
Honda has enforced its commitment to the FIA World Touring Car Championship by confirming it will enter a three-car factory line-up for a second season running.
Norbert Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro will be among the title contenders, while Ryo Michigami becomes the first Japanese driver to mount a season-long WTCC campaign with a works team having made his debut when the series visited Japan last season.
The trio will join forces to bid for the coveted FIA World Touring Car Championship for Manufacturers, which Honda won for the first time in 2013, its first full season as an official entrant. They will also be in line to represent Team Honda in the Manufacturers Against the Clock (WTCC MAC3) Tour de France-inspired team time trial at all 10 events in 2017 when extra manufacturer points will be up for grabs.
“While Honda’s continued factory presence in the WTCC has been known for some months, we have been eagerly awaiting confirmation of its driver line-up and we’re thrilled that Norbi and Tiago will again form part of the team and doubtless challenge for the world driver title,” said François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCC promoter. “In Ryo Michigami, the WTCC welcomes a Japanese factory driver for a season-long campaign for the first time, which is also great news given the popularity of the championship in Japan. This will only increase in 2017 and we will soon announce details of an exciting live TV package for Japanese fans.”
Masashi Yamamoto, General Manager of Motor Sports Division, Honda Motor Co Ltd, said: “In 2017 we are delighted to partner Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz – two of the world’s finest touring car racers – with Ryo Michigami, whom we welcome into the Honda works team as the first Japanese driver to contest a full season in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. With a long and successful career in Japan behind him, we are confident that he will make the very best of his opportunity. With a strong driver line-up and a Civic WTCC that has been made even more competitive during the winter, our aim is to win the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles this year. Finally, I’d like to thank Rob Huff for his enormous contribution to the WTCC programme in 2016 and to wish him the very best for the future.”
As well as chasing success on track, Honda will use its WTCC participation to promote its new-for-2017 Civic road car with several activities planned during the season. It will continue its pre-season testing programme, which began last December, at the Ciudad del Motor de Aragón in Spain from 25-27 January, when Michelisz, Michigami and Monteiro will share driving duties in the Civic WTCC test car.
Honda announced that it would be extending its commitment to the WTCC into 2017 last September as it neared the end of its most successful WTCC campaign to date. The make celebrated four race wins and matched Citroën for outright victories in WTCC MAC3, while Monteiro placed a career-high third in the final drivers’ standings. In total, Honda has celebrated 14 race wins in the WTCC, a figure that is set to rise during the year.
The 2017 season begins at WTCC Race of Morocco in Marrakech from 7-9 April. WTCC Race of Japan takes place at Twin Ring Motegi, north of Tokyo, from 27-29 October.
“I’m very happy to be racing with Honda again in 2017. My first year in a factory team was a bit of an eye-opener, but by the second half of the season we developed some strong momentum and made the most of our pace in qualifying, and I was very proud to win at Honda’s home race in Japan. I’m confident that I have the car and team to help me achieve my goal of becoming world champion, and that I’ve now reached the level I need to be at personally to make this happen. With Tiago and Ryo alongside me in the team, I think our performances will be very strong across the whole season.”
“As a Japanese driver, I’m extremely proud to be given the opportunity to represent a Japanese manufacturer in a world championship. I’m aware that this season will be a huge challenge for me, but I will use all the experience I have gained during my career in Japan and I am incredibly motivated to perform strongly across the season. I want to make this the pinnacle of my life in motorsport and together with Honda, JAS Motorsport, Tiago and Norbi, I will make the maximum effort possible to achieve this. I would also like to thank everybody in advance for their help and support in 2017.”
“It’s fantastic to be staying with Honda and I’m incredibly enthusiastic about what lies ahead in 2017. I joined Honda at the start of the WTCC programme in 2012 with the aim of becoming world champion, and that target remains the same. In 2016, I came closer than ever before as I finished third in the points, became the first Portuguese driver to lead an FIA world championship and scored a hugely emotional win on the streets of Vila Real – very close to where I grew up. Last year the Civic WTCC was the best it’s ever been and so was the way the team worked. If we continue to build on this in 2017, as I’m sure we will, then we can be sure of an extremely strong push for the title.”
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