Honda Racing Team JAS have been testing at the Slovakiaring during the past few days with their 2013 drivers Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro, with Honda explaining their decision to re-enter the touring car scene with the Italian outfit.
The Japanese manufacturer will enter the WTCC as an official entrant for the first time, last running official touring car programme in international touring car racing back in 2001 in the European Super Touring Championship, also with JAS and with drivers Gabriele Tarquini and Fabrice Walfisch.
Honda has also been working with JAS recently in rallying, where JAS produced the front-wheel drive Honda Civic R3 for the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, which is sold on as a customer racing car.
“I have to say we are really pleased to work with JAS on this project for the WTCC because they have proven to be a really loyal partner,” said Honda Europe Motorsport Manager William De Braekeleer. “Even when we had to stop our official support and programme, they continued to invest and to believe in Honda in racing. For instance the Accord they developed, they developed by their own means without any Honda financial support, and this car has been really successful.”
“I think it was only justice to work with them and we hope that in the future the choice will be proven right by having a successful Civic in the WTCC next year.”
“We selected Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro, and we are really pleased with this choice. Tarquini was an obvious choice because he was with us in the BTCC and STW times and has a long relationship with us, and it’s good to have him back. Not only that, he’s proven to be a very talented development driver and racing driver – and Tiago, we really wanted to have somebody with fresh blood in the team and we believe Tiago has not yet shown all his potential and will be a really tough team-mate for Gabriele.”
JAS Team Principal Alessandro Mariani explains the short timeframe the programme has been underway, getting the new Civic on the track at the beginning of the month at Vallelunga, and then getting ready to compete at the final three rounds of the 2012 season.
“Last year, the campaign was born on my flight to Suzuka to present the programme to Honda in October 2011,” said Mariani. “We knew that we had to start before Christmas, but we cannot work before the official announcement made by the President of Honda at the beginning of February.”
“JAS has worked with Gabriele Tarquini since 1996, we won a lot of races in different championships, we worked very close technically, and Gabriele has a very good working relationship with Tiago Monteiro.”
Mariani also confirms the team spent a short amount of time looking at other drivers for the programme, including one from Chevrolet, but in the end the line-up of Tarquini and Monteiro, who has been able to leave the independent SUNRED team three rounds early to switch to Honda, made the most sense to the team.
“We approached one of (Chevrolet’s drivers)…but we had a problem,” explained Mariani, referring to the unavailability of the drivers. “Gabriele was able to make the tests as Gabriele doesn’t have an agreement with any present (manufacturer).”
The team will test further before joining the grid at Suzuka in October for the first time with Tiago Monteiro at the wheel, before their first full campaign begins next season.
Honda Europe’s Motorsport Director William De Braekeleer has also confirmed that there could be up to five Honda Civic WTCCs on the grid next season as the company are looking into customer programmes, but no more than that.