Honda is pleased to announce that Tiago Monteiro, Norbert Michelisz and Ryo Michigami will form a three-driver line-up in the FIA World Touring Car Championship in 2017.
The trio will race the latest development of the Honda Civic WTCC, which has undergone a programme of continued development from Honda R&D and JAS Motorsport this winter.
For Tiago, 2016 marked the best season of his WTCC career. Having become the first Portuguese driver to lead an FIA World Championship after an early-season victory in Slovakia, he finished third in the points and was a highly-popular winner at his home event on the streets of Vila Real in June.
The 40-year-old will embark on his fifth full season with Honda in 2017, having given the Civic WTCC its race debut at Suzuka, Japan, in 2012.
Hungarian driver Norbert, 32, joined the factory Honda team in 2016 after spending three seasons in privateer Civics and twice winning the WTCC Trophy for drivers of independent teams.
He led home a famous 1-2-3 finish at Honda’s home WTCC round in Japan and finished fourth in the drivers’ championship.
Ryo made his WTCC debut in a fourth Civic at Twin Ring Motegi last year and will gain further experience of the car during winter testing.
The 43-year-old triumphed in Japan’s prestigious Super GT Championship in a Honda NSX in 2000 and will become Japan’s first full-time entrant in the WTCC.
Honda’s 2017 WTCC line-up will not feature Rob Huff, who finished sixth in last season’s points and scored a debut victory at Circuit Paul Ricard in France.
Tiago Monteiro, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, said: “It’s fantastic to be staying with Honda and I’m incredibly enthusiastic about what lies ahead in 2017. I joined Honda at the start of the WTCC programme in 2012 with the aim of becoming World Champion, and that target remains the same. 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. Last year the Civic WTCC was the best it’s ever been and so was the way the team worked. 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.”
Norbert Michelisz, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, said: “I’m very happy to be racing with Honda again in 2017. 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 and I was very proud to win at Honda’s home race in Japan. I’m confident that I have the car and team to help me achieve my goal of becoming World Champion and that I’ve now reached the level I need to be at personally to make this happen. With Tiago and Ryo alongside me in the team, I think our performances will be very strong across the whole season.”
Ryo Michigami, Honda Racing Team JAS, said: “As a Japanese driver, I’m extremely proud to be given the opportunity to represent a Japanese manufacturer in a World Championship. 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. I want to make this the pinnacle of my life in motorsport and together with Honda, JAS Motorsport, Tiago and Norbi, I will make the maximum effort possible to achieve this. I would also like to thank everybody in advance for their help and support in 2017.”
Masashi Yamamoto, General Manager of Motor Sports Division, Honda Motor Co Ltd, said: “In 2017 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 as the first Japanese driver to contest a full season in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. With a long and successful career in Japan behind him, we are confident that he will make the very best of his opportunity. With a strong driver line-up and a Civic WTCC that has been made even more competitive during the winter, our aim is to win the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles this year. Finally, I’d like to thank Rob Huff for his enormous contribution to the WTCC programme in 2016 and to wish him the very best for the future.”