The Hyundai-powered BRC Racing Team driver inherited first place when on-the-road winner Kevin Ceccon was penalised five seconds for not having all four wheels of his Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR within his DHL Pole Position starting box.
Saturday’s Race 1 winner pushed as hard as he could once notice of the Race 3 penalty had been served. Although Aurélien Comte (DG Sport Compétition PEUGEOT 308TCR) moved ahead of him in the final order, Ceccon held on for the last podium spot, with Mehdi Bennani and Aurélien Comte completing the top five for Sébastien Loeb Racing and Comtoyou Racing respectively.
Rob Huff finished sixth in the second SLR Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR but the Brit leaves Japan a two-time winner in WTCR OSCARO after landing top spot in Race 2. A rapid start and a controlled approach under race-long pressure from Pepe Oriola (Team OSCARO by Campos Racing Cupra) were key to his success and a major confidence boost ahead of Macau, where he will be gunning for a record-extending win number 10. Oriola, meanwhile, had started the reverse-grid counter on the DHL pole, and although he lost out on a second win of 2018, he remains in the title race.
That’s led by Tarquini to the tune of 39 points over Yvan Muller (YMR Hyundai 30 N TCR) – who finished third in Race 1 – heading to the Suncity Group Macau Guia Race from 15-18 November. But with 87 points up for grabs at the street racing spectacular and seven drivers still in contention for the inaugural WTCR OSCARO crown, a tense title battle is in store. In the teams’ classification, BRC Racing Team moves ahead of YMR, albeit by a mere eight points.
Other notable performances at a sun-baked Suzuka, which attracted a weekend crowd of 42,500, came from Esteban Guerrieri, who took his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Honda Civic Type R TCR to fourth in Race 1 ahead of Bennani and Jean-Karl Vernay (Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team).
Norbert Michelisz returned to the podium with third in Race 2 for BRC Racing Team, the Hungarian finishing one place ahead of Panis, for whom fourth place was a season-best result, and two ahead of team-mate Tarquini.
Ceccon added to his Race 1 win, his DHL pole for Race 3 and his weekend-closing third with sixth in Race 2. However, the most notable performance of all came from Tiago Monteiro. The Portuguese was back in action 415 days after suffering serious head and neck injuries in a testing crash. In what was his long-awaited WTCR OSCARO debut, Monteiro scored a Suzuka-high P11 in Race 3 for the Honda-powered Boutsen Ginion Racing squad.
Monteiro: Race return exceeded expectations
Tiago Monteiro said his return to racing at WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan exceeded his expectations. Monteiro, out of action since sustaining serious head and neck injuries in a testing crash in Spain in September 2017, scored a weekend-best P11 in Race 3 in his Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R TCR. Afterwards the Portuguese said: “I gained confidence with the car and with myself [throughout the weekend]. I pushed myself to the limit to see where I was, with fourth fastest lap in race two and fighting for the points in Race 3 in that big group. I enjoyed it so much, it exceeded my expectations and I am very happy about it.” Monteiro received a hero’s welcome from the WTCR OSCARO family with Race 2 winner Rob Huff using the post-race press conference to praise his one-time team-mate. “To achieve what he has achieved after only 18 months after a life-changing crash and to perform as he has this weekend, the whole championship is very proud of you, mate, so well done.”