The unfortunate cancellation of the WTCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup round at Autodrom Most due to the state of emergency in Czechia means it is five weeks until the streets of Pau host the new 2022 season opener.
One driver raring to get back on track is Honda Racing’s Tiago Monteiro, who sensationally won the opening race of the 2021 season in an ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR but later sat out the final two races of the season after developing a bacterial chest infection.
Now fully fit again, Tiago discusses his recovery, his continued role as a Honda Racing driver, and his and team-mate Attila Tassi’s move to new Honda Racing customer LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler for the 2022 WTCR season.
Question: It’s been four months since you were forced to miss the final round of the 2021 WTCR season. How are you doing?
Tiago Monteiro: My recovery has gone very well. I had the whole month of December off, really relaxing as much as possible and recovering slowly. By January I was able to start pushing my body and its limits a little bit more. Already that was going well - I still felt a little bit more tired than usual, but nothing more than that - and by mid-February I was completely back to normal. It’s never nice to miss any racing but with hindsight, it was good that it happened at the end of the season so I had the winter to recover. If that sort of thing happens at the start of the season or in the middle of it, you're really in trouble. But that period is almost forgotten about now.
Q: This marks your fourth year teamed up with Attila Tassi. How do you two complement each other?
TM: To continue with Attila is great. We got on very well from the beginning, we are really close, and we work well together. It's a good step to have this dual point of going back to two cars but being able to continue with Attila while doing so is also very nice. He's been evolving a lot; he's always been quick, but he is younger and at the beginning perhaps was a bit more raw. But now he's nearly there all the time. He's pushing me to my limits, which is good, and that's what you need. It's positive competition and I welcome that a lot.
Q: Your team-mate is the same, but you have both moved to LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler. What have you learned so far?
TM: It’s been great to welcome LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler to the Honda Racing family and to start working with them. It's a very important deal with a new team, coming to a new brand, and I'm really happy that I'm able to help the team with this transition. I think the choice was good because with my experience I can help to get them integrated in Honda quickly. I've been involved in a lot of teams since I've been with Honda - first with JAS in the FIA World Touring Car Championship, then with Boutsen Ginion Racing, KCMG, ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport and now LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler in the WTCR. It's a great challenge. Engstler have really proved their experience on-track and off-track over many years. It's a great team, a strong team, and a very professional team. I raced against Franz in the WTCC for many years, when I started in 2007 he was a competitor. He's always been a great gentleman and a great professional. Then he became a very good team owner as well, so I'm glad that I'll finally be able to work directly with him. I want to again welcome them to the family, and I'm really looking forward to this new challenge.
Q: How much will the experience that you and Attila have with the Honda Civic Type R TCR help?
TM: It's the sort of thing you need to have, to be honest. It’s almost mandatory. You can't arrive in the WTCR without some experience of the brand you’re working with, whether it's the drivers or the engineers or both. The level is too high, the competition's too strong and there's not enough time to learn and improve and get to the standard - you have to be on the ball right away. The great starting point LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler have is how professional and experienced they are, but there are a lot of small details that you can’t know about the car without having worked on it, so my work with Attila and the help from JAS Motorsport has already begun in getting the engineers up to speed as quickly as possible, which is crucial in this pre-season testing period. This is a huge part of our preparation, so I have no doubt we will be ready to go for the first round.
Q: You have had your first test with the team. How did it go?
TM: We had a really good, productive two-day test at Most earlier this month. It was great to meet more of the team for the first time. Attila and I actually had the chance to begin working with some of them separately during a couple of days of running at a JAS Motorsport test at Cervesina last month, but it was good to do this in full at Most, even if unfortunately we will not be racing there now - which is of course completely the right course of action due to the situation there and the help Czechia is giving to displaced refugees. Just to be back on track and begin building up the pre-season has been good, and we have more tests coming up to fine-tune our preparations for the season.