The Honda WTCC team have begun testing for their 2017 World Touring Car championship campaign in Aragon, Spain. The test will last for 3 days where all three of Honda’s drivers will be in action. Honda announced their line up on Monday (23rd Jan) where they confirmed they would retain Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz. They will be joined by Ryo Michigami who completed one round last season at Motegi. The news comes after Rob Huff announced his return to Munnich Motorsport to drive a Citroen.
Masashi Yamamoto, General Manager of Honda’s motor sports division said: “We we are delighted to partner Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz – two of the world’s finest touring car racers – with Ryo Michigami, whom we welcome into the Honda works team.” Speaking about Michigami’s appointment: “With a long and successful career in Japan behind him, we are confident that he will make the very best of his opportunity.”
Tiago Monteiro is the highest placed driver of the 2016 to return, finishing third behind the factory Citroens. He will be one of the tips for the title this season. ““It’s fantastic to be staying with Honda and I’m incredibly enthusiastic about what lies ahead in 2017. In 2016 I came closer than ever before as I finished third in the points, became the first Portuguese driver to lead an FIA World Championship and scored a hugely emotional win on the streets of Vila Real – very close to where I grew up. If we continue to build on this in 2017, as I’m sure we will, then we can be sure of an extremely strong push for the title.”
Michelisz moved up to the factory squad in 2016, haven driven for Zengo motorsport the year before. In his first factory drive, he went on to finish fourth just 1 point behind Monteiro. Talking on his return to the team: “My first year in a factory team was a bit of an eye-opener, but by the second half of the season we developed some strong momentum and made the most of our pace in qualifying”
Former Super GT driver Michigami competed a single round in Japan last season with a best finish of 11th. He will also become the first Japanese driver to compete, full time, in the WTCC. “As a Japanese driver, I’m extremely proud to be given the opportunity to represent a Japanese manufacturer in a World Championship” Michigami said. ” I’m aware that this season will be a huge challenge for me, but I will use all the experience I have gained during my career in Japan and I am incredibly motivated to perform strongly across the season.”
Monteiro and Michelisz will run as the Castrol Honda WTCC team, while Michigami will run by Honda Racing Team JAS. In effect, Michelisz inherits the seat of Rob Huff, while Michigami replaces Michelisz. All three will run an updated version of the Civic which Honda has used since it entered the WTCC. The car is currently running an all white livery, with a full race livery to be unveiled in the coming months.
The confirmation by Honda means 5 cars are confirmed for the 2017 season. The 3 civics will be joined by two Citroens run by Sebastien Loeb Racing and Munnich Motorsport. It is expected that announcements will come from Campos Racing, ROAL Motorsport, Zengo Motorsport and SLR. There has still been no news regarding who will pilot Volvo’s three S60s for the 2017 season. It also remains to be seen how many drivers will enter the new WTCC-2 category.