Q&A with Tiago Monteiro
"I’m blessed and very lucky to be racing in my country"
He’s the home hero all Portuguese fans will be cheering and, like all of his FIA World Touring Car Championship rivals, the challenging Vila Real circuit will be a step into the unknown for Tiago Monteiro. Well sort of in any case as the Castrol Honda driver reveals ahead of OSCARO.com WTCC Race of Portugal…
Do you have any experience of driving at Vila Real?
“I’ve never driven there but funnily enough I remember my first images of race cars live was in Vila Real when I was eight or nine. We have some family from around there who had a house where you could see the track from the garden. The whole family would go there for a big nice weekend event. It was fun and it’s funny that almost 30 years later I go there as a racer in a world championship. It’s fantastic and I’m very excited about it.”
But a home race brings its fair share of demands, right?
“For me it’s a highlight of the season. It’s an important one but a busy one and a bit of a love/hate situation. It’s great and I’m blessed and very lucky to be racing in my country. There are a lot of international drivers in the WTCC and many of them don’t have a home race so I’m very lucky to have it for some time now. But at the same time it’s very busy, very demanding psychologically, even physically because you travel a lot for it. And the last week will be a crescendo of activities but I guess it’s a good thing.”
Did those early visits to Vila Real fire your interest in motor racing?
“It would be nice to say yes but not really! I always liked motorsports but I was a lot more into motorbikes to be honest. Although I liked cars and to watch the racing was quite exciting, I was more into motorbikes until I was 16. I don’t think going to Vila Real had a direct interference in my life but for sure it sparked some interest.”
What knowledge do you have of the actual track and the layout?
“I started to look already at some YouTube videos to understand it a little bit but it seems very fast. It seems like a mix of Pau, but much faster, like Macau a little bit and with a bit of a Nürburgring Nordschleife feeling with ups and downs and blind corners. Everything seems very fast so I am expecting a big challenge.”
You spent some time going to the Nürburgring to prepare for the WTCC races there in May. Do you have a similar plan for Vila Real, even though it’s obviously a street circuit?
“In this case it’s probably better to watch videos and do a track walk with the engineers, maybe some laps on a bicycle. It’s the same for everybody, everybody is new there and it’s up to us to get up to speed quickly.”
What’s the secret to learning a new track?
“I have a secret but I can’t tell you because it won’t be a secret any more! The only thing I can say is walking the track helps a lot. Looking at every detail, the grip level, the bumps, it’s very important. If you have a good simulator you can also learn a bit from there. Videos also help but there are also some other tricks.”
What kind of welcome are you expecting from the Portuguese fans?
“To be honest Porto was always a huge success in terms of attendances and you feel that support everywhere, it’s crazy! I must say gearing up to the race in Vila Real I’ve felt a lot more demand from the people, more enthusiasm, more motivation around Vila Real so I think there could be more people. There is a lot more curiosity about it, even more than Porto.”
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