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WTCC Race of Portugal Q&A: Tiago Monteiro

WTCC Race of Portugal Q&A: Tiago Monteiro

16/06/2017 18:00

Tiago Monteiro’s national hero status rose considerably last year when he won the Main Race at WTCC Race of Portugal in front of thousands of adoring fans in Vila Real. The Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver is back for more in next week (23-25 June) with hopes remaining high, despite recent setbacks.

You lost the championship lead during a tough visit to Germany last month. How disappointed were you?
“It was a really good opportunity to consolidate the championship lead, but because of a puncture in the Opening Race, which put me into a barrier, this wasn’t possible. It was extremely frustrating to have this happen [but] I’m incredibly proud of my guys for fixing the car and getting me out for the Main Race, although starting from the pitlane made points nearly impossible.”

Are you confident you can still fight for the title?
“Definitely. I’ve lost my championship lead, but there’s still more than half a season to fight for the title.”

How much pressure will be on your during the Vila Real weekend?
“I cannot hide that there is a huge pressure and I put this on myself, naturally. I have been working very hard to get there. I have been lucky in the last 10 years to be with works teams, but it’s not every year that you have the possibility to fight for the championship. At one point I was not ready, I was not up to the task when I was fighting specialist drivers with lots of experience at the start. But now I am there. We are in a positon where we know we can fight for the title so of course it brings an extra pressure. But at the same time that’s what pushes us towards our goal.”

What difference does the support of the fans make?
“It can be a bit overwhelming at times but it’s such positive motivation and the reason I won in Vila Real last year is probably partly because of the strong motivation I had. And standing on that podium was definitely an unforgettable moment, such a strong sensation. You knew you had achieved something very strong and important and when you see the reaction and happiness of the people, it was just ‘wow’, a big impact on your life.”

So what’s so good about the Vila Real weekend?
“It’s the best way that you can spend a race weekend. You are so close to the action at a street track, so close to the cars, closer than ever to the drivers – you are in the middle of the city and the atmosphere is crazy. There’s so much excitement, so much shouting and the videos and images from last year shows what it means to the people.”

How tough is the track to master?
“It’s a tricky one that I compare with Macau. It’s shorter than Macau but just as hard because it’s very fast and very bumpy. You also have a lot of changes each year to deal with. The kerbs, the chicanes, the resurfacing that goes on means you need to learn and readapt.”

What did your Vila Real preparations entail?
“It’s the most crazy week ever, you have so much demand as you can imagine. Not only the media and promotional commitments, but you have your partners, the fans and then there are all the motorsport commitments and demands. It all takes time and energy but that’s why we do the job we do because we love it. On the Monday and Tuesday there will be a number of PR commitments, on Wednesday afternoon I drive to the track, which is one hour from my home and stay in Vila Real for the rest of the week. I could drive home but I would not want to risk getting a puncture on the road or something like that. There are more promotional events on Thursday and Friday, which is when the real business starts.”

 And what would have happened if you hadn’t become a racing driver – was there a plan B?
“My family is in the hotel business and I went to study hotel management in Switzerland. I loved it and that was the direction I was going to go in. But after I finished my studies I had the opportunity to drive a race car, which I thought maybe I could do as a hobby. But then I got discovered, got some opportunities and made the decision that hotel management could wait and I would go back to it if I wasn’t successful in motorsport. And now this will be my 20th year of racing so I can say it’s getting better and better.”

So it’s fair to say life doesn’t get much better than doing what you do?
“I haven’t tried anything else but I am so lucky to be able to live out my passion, which is motorsport. It’s something I really love. Of course being an astronaut or jet fighter pilot would be really cool but I get to go round the world driving the fastest cars for the most amazing teams, partners and brands. It’s really amazing and I am very fortunate to be in this position.”

There’s a close fight for WTCC Trophy glory brewing as several independent racers battle for top honours at WTCC Race of Portugal this weekend.

Nicky Catsburg will start WTCC Race of Portugal leading the FIA World Touring Car Championship having gone from hunter to hunted after snatching the title lead from home hero Tiago Monteiro at the Nürburgring Nordschleife last month.

Jan Stange cut Alexander Dornieden’s title lead to two points following an action-packed eSports WTCC multiplayer championship counter on Sunday.

With climbs and dips, sweeping turns, blind corners and fast straights, the Circuito Internacional de Vila Real provides a big challenge for the FIA World Touring Car Championship drivers. Home hero Tiago Monteiro is your guide to the 4.785-kilometre lap.

Néstor Girolami will be hungry for a change of fortune when the FIA World Touring Car Championship heads to Vila Real later this week.

Tiago Monteiro got his faltering season firmly back on track with an emotional home win in the FIA World Touring Car Championship on 26 June 2016.