Honda’s drivers and customer racing teams have been involved in some of the most iconic moments in WTCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup history, and have shown unwavering commitment to the series during its five-year lifespan.
So, as the final chequered flag falls on the WTCR, it seems only appropriate to pick out the best of those and celebrate them one final time.
Hungary 2018: The first win
“I can’t even describe how good this feels,” said Yann Ehrlacher, after taking the first win for the Honda Civic Type R TCR at just the fourth attempt in the WTCR. What’s more, it was at the head of an ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 1-2 at the Hungaroring as well.
Ehrlacher gleefully swept into the lead when team-mate Esteban Guerrieri had contact through Turns 2 and 3, having led into the first corner, with Guerrieri recovering to second.
They stayed in formation for the remaining 12 laps and crossed the line together - with victory marking the first of five wins for the car at the track in the WTCR era.
Suzuka 2018: Monteiro's return
One big hole in the Honda Racing family had been Tiago Monteiro’s absence from World Touring Car racing following a testing crash in September 2017. Though a hoped for return for the start of 2018 had to be put on hold, that was put right later that year when Tiago made a heroic comeback at the Suzuka WTCR round.
Flanked by his fellow competitors as he made his way to the end of the pitlane to start FP1, Monteiro showed he was every bit as competitive as he had been before his accident as he quickly built his speed up. Having qualified 16th, Monteiro ended the weekend just outside the points in 11th place in Race Three - more than proving himself on his return.
"I came here without any targets set publicly, but privately I needed to prove I could be competitive straight away," said Monteiro. "It’s felt amazing to be back all weekend and I’m very pleased with how everything’s gone."
Macau 2018: Street fighter Guerrieri
The first two of Guerrieri’s record 10 WTCR wins proved beyond doubt the calibre of driver the rest of the field were up against.
Having previously conquered the Nürburgring Nordschleife (the first of two times he achieved victory at the Green Hell), Guerrieri’s second win of the 2018 campaign came in the final race of the season on the streets of Macau. It was a win full of the grit and determination that characterised his time in the WTCR, too.
From second on the grid, he outlaunched the polesitting car before going unchallenged on the run to Lisboa. That was the last time that was to happen, with Guerrieri having to defend each lap as the car bounced off the limiter out of the high-speed Mandarin Oriental right-hander, but the appearance of the safety car on the penultimate lap ensured a superb win.
“The only chance I had to fight for the win was to make an even better start [than in Race One],” said Guerrieri. “I pulled the overtake before Mandarin and then I was trying to prevent degradation. Around the infield I was going 80%, I was actually being hit out of some corners, but I knew the places to push and saved the tyres to create a little gap in the final two turns.”
Hungary 2019: Girolami does the double
If there was any doubt about the prowess of the Civic Type R TCR at the Hungaroring after the 2018 triumph, Nestor Girolami put that to bed with a sensational double win in Hungary.
The Argentinian, a fresh face in the WTCR in 2019, had already started the season positively with a podium in the season opener (he was third behind race-winning team-mate Guerrieri) but went even better at the next round.
Pole position - the first of six in total for ‘Bebu’ - on Saturday was converted into a first victory, but the best was arguably still to come as Girolami kept his cool on a chaotic opening lap in wet/dry conditions to win Sunday’s Race Two from sixth on the grid.
Vila Real 2019: Monteiro's emotional victory
Monteiro’s one-off 2018 outing at Suzuka was the precursor to a full-time return to racing in the series for 2019 with KCMG.
Though that campaign started encouragingly with two top-eight finishes at the Marrakech season opener, points finishes were harder to come by thereafter. Cue a weekend in front of his home Portuguese fans.
Monteiro and Attila Tassi proved a cut above the rest on day two in Vila Real, with his rookie team-mate topping qualifying - becoming the WTCR’s youngest ever polesitter in the process aged just 19. But when Tassi suffered a misfire in the race, Monteiro picked up the pieces - guiding his Civic Type R TCR home to a hugely emotional victory on the city street circuit.
Recounting his success, Tiago said: "Winning was probably an even stronger feeling than the first time I won there in 2016; winning after my accident, in my home country, in front of these amazing fans with this amazing atmosphere, it’s really a beautiful story."
Suzuka 2019: Victory on Honda’s home soil
In the midst of a fierce battle for the WTCR title, Guerrieri headed to Suzuka in need of a big result to keep up the pressure on the points leader. That’s just what he got.
A 1-2-3 for Honda drivers in a wet qualifying session, headed by Monteiro, was the perfect start to the weekend - made even better the following day when Guerrieri took his third win of the season in the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Civic Type R TCR on Honda’s home soil.
Monteiro completed the podium, while Guerrieri added a second-place finish a day later to keep up his pursuit of the crown.
Sepang 2019: Guerrieri’s heroics
Guerrieri’s 2019 title bid featured several highs, but the pick of the bunch came at the Sepang season finale when he pulled off one of the standout opening laps in World Touring Car history.
Second place in Race One meant he limited the points lost to the standings leader, but Guerrieri was on another level as the rain arrived for Race Two. Starting ninth, he’d burst into the lead little more than halfway round the lap and, though the race was red flagged and he took the restart in second on countback, he quickly surged back into first and claimed his fourth win of that season - a victory that sent the 2019 title to a final-race showdown.
It was ultimately picked as the highlight of the Argentinian’s time in the WTCR when Honda asked its fans to vote for their favourite moments in 2021.
“I went all in on the first lap, starting from ninth, and managed a mega lap - I would say the best of my life - to jump from ninth to first,” said Guerrieri, who ended up second in that year’s points. ”I have very nice memories of that, so thank you to the fans for voting for it.”
Zolder 2020: A winning start
There was plenty about the 2020 WTCR season that felt unusual, given the delay to the start of it, and its truncated nature, resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. But one familiar sight was the Honda Civic Type R TCR in the winners’ circle.
On the first race weekend featuring four Münnich Motorsport-run cars, Girolami proved the team were as sharp as ever as he controlled the opening race of the season at Zolder - with Tassi making it double delight by taking his first podium in the series in his ALL-INKL.DE-entered car.
It was also the first race to feature the Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition Safety Car - which was the WTCR’s Official Safety Car for its final three seasons.
Hungary 2020: Perfection at the Hungaroring
What’s better than one Civic Type R TCR at the front of the field? Try four of them.
On a special Saturday at the Hungaroring in 2020, Guerrieri headed both qualifying sessions to seal a double-pole for Sunday’s races, the second of which featured a 1-2-3-4 for Honda drivers as Tassi, Monteiro, and Girolami helped make history.
Guerrieri converted his first pole to a victory, and then led a top-three lockout in Race Three - with Monteiro taking his first podium of the season and Girolami completing a famous weekend for Münnich Motorsport.
Aragon 2020: Guerrieri the record setter
The 2020 campaign marked the third in a row where Guerrieri had gone to the season finale in the hunt for the title, though staying in the fight looked a tall order at a Motorland Aragon circuit far from well-suited to the strengths of the Civic Type R TCR.
But an unusually cold weekend in November allowed ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport to deploy all their know-how from a testing trip to the circuit earlier that year, when they observed the track taking a long time to clear of condensation.
The decision was taken on the grid to start with wet rear tyres, and it proved an inspired one: Girolami, the best of the Honda qualifiers, raced from 11th on the grid to lead by the time he got to the final sector on lap one, with Guerrieri advancing to seventh from 16th.
He was soon through to second, and on the final lap was gifted first place by a magnanimous Girolami, the pair sealing a stunning 1-2 that prolonged the title fight.
Estoril 2021: Tassi comes of age
There was another five-start qualifying performance to come in 2021, as Esteban headed a 1-2-3-5 on the WTCR’s maiden visit to Estoril.
But a Girolami grid penalty removed one car from that starting order, and it looked like things might unravel when Guerrieri was caught out by the positioning of the light gantry at the start and slipped back, then early leader Monteiro was forced to pit when a loose pin caused part of his bonnet to stick up.
Just as his team-mate had been two years earlier when he slowed in Vila Real, though, Tassi was in place to uphold honour. He held off a three-car challenge from behind in the second half of the race to close out his first win, becoming the second-youngest winner in the series’ history.
"It's been a long time coming and not easy to achieve but I'm so happy with my first win," said Tassi. "After Tiago’s problem, it felt like the race went on forever, and the whole thing was made even more difficult by the fact that I had a radio problem, so all I could do each lap was focus on perfecting my exit onto the two straights so the cars behind had no opportunity to pass."
Pau 2022: New beginnings, familiar result
The 2022 campaign marked a return to a two-team set-up as LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler made its first WTCR appearance as part of the Honda Racing family, joining ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport in fielding two Civic Type R TCRs.
On track, Girolami made a customary fast start out of the blocks as he and Guerrieri locked out a 1-2 in qualifying on the famous Pau-Ville circuit. That result was replicated a day later, as the pair navigated their way through the streets of the French city to lock out the top two positions in Race One, kicking the campaign off in the best possible way.
There might well have been two Civic Type R TCR victories that day, as LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler showed their potential early on. But Tassi, who lined up second on the grid for Race Two, was pushed into the wall at the start having made a better launch than the polesitter.
Victory in Race One was the first of two in 2022 for ‘Bebu’, who also went on to rack up three pole positions on his way to finishing runner-up overall in the final season of the WTCR.