FIA WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan, 27-29 October 2017
FIA World Touring Car Championship 2017: Rounds 15 and 16 of 20

Norbert Michelisz, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, DHL Pole Position Award winner
Nicky Catsburg, Polestar Cyan Racing, second position
Néstor Girolami, Polestar Cyan Racing, third position
Mehdi Bennani, Sébastien Loeb Racing, WTCC Trophy, first position
Alessandro Mariani, Team Honda, WTCC MAC3 winning team representative
Ryo Michigami, Honda Racing Team JAS, leading Japanese driver

Turning first to Norbert Michelisz, DHL pole-sitter for the eighth time as Honda celebrates pole position number 10 in the WTCC and what a perfect place to do it, your team’s home track. How happy are you with that result?

Really happy of course and two out of three so far at Motegi. I like the venue a lot I have to say. Japan was always kind to me. Of course the afternoon races have high importance but you cannot start the races from a better position than pole position. I have to say I had the perfect car throughout the weekend. We tried some things and most of it were working and I had the confidence from the first moment although the circumstances were quite tricky. In the end it worked out. The Q3 wasn’t really a good one but I am quite happy that it was enough for pole position. I made a slightly stupid mistake in the last sector, which cost me some time. In the end it doesn’t really matter.

Turning next to Nicky Catsburg and second place. You were the final driver to set their time in the qualifying shootout but it wasn’t enough to beat Norbi. What happened?

I think similar to Norbi – I made a couple of mistakes only I did it in the first two sectors so I lost some time there. I could have done three seconds faster! No, not really. There was some more time there but I’m not sure if I would have been able to beat Norbi so congratulations to him. It’s very good news for him after having some bad news before the weekend. I do think we have a very, very strong car for the race and I am looking forward to this afternoon.

Coming next to Néstor Girolami, you spent a lot of time in Free Practice 2 doing nothing after an unfortunate start. Can you explain what happened and how you hit back to do so well in Q3?

First of all, I want to congratulate Norbi for his pole position, for Nicky for doing a fantastic job all day, he is really fast. And my team-mate also Thed [Björk]. It was a mistake in Q2 because my improving lap in Q2 left Thed outside of Q3, it was so late. In Q3 it was a really challenging lap because qualifying was really challenging. In Free Practice 2 I did a mistake in corner 10, this cost me a lot. You have to be confident again so this is really bad over the weekend. But we were pushing so much to be in Q3 and now we are in a very good position for the Main Race. It’s very important to score points and help Nicky to attack Norbi, this is very important for the team.

Turning next to Mehdi Bennani, fastest in the WTCC Trophy and seventh overall in qualifying. Just explain how tough were those conditions?

Since Ningbo we are struggling with the rain. For sure I don’t like too much rainy conditions because I am not used to driving in the rain in my own country and normally we are racing in dry conditions so I am not the perfect driver to give the good feedback to the engineer how to set up the car and how to be quick in these conditions and have a car that can be good and can let me push. But this time all three drivers gave good reports and we nearly all had the perfect set-up to be fighting and have the car drivable to be fighting with these guys close to us but not enough to be very close. But we know the Citroën is not the strongest car to have in the rain conditions but I am quite happy, we are consistent and maybe we have a chance.

Coming next to Ryo Michgiami, making history today by claiming the best performance in WTCC qualifying by a Japanese driver so congratulations for that. Talk us through your performance today?

First of all, I am very happy because my goal was to go into Q3 and I was able to have a good result. Motegi is the one track I have been racing at for the last 20 years so I am very confident here and feel much more relaxed. I could show my potential here. Although the car delivery was very late and I was feeling very restless before we actually started the team did a great job and I am very pleased I was able to produce this performance.

Turning next to Alessandro Mariani, the Team Principal of the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team. After a tough start to the weekend it’s going fantastically well for Honda with pole position and also the WTCC MAC3 victory. Just describe the team effort and the performance of the cars and drivers on track?

The approach of the Motegi round was very difficult for many reasons, the cars arrived very late, we made a lot of development and we worked liked crazy since two weeks ago. Yesterday afternoon when we started Free Practice 1 with three cars running for me it was a great result and with a good performance was a secondary win. Today, this morning, we showed the car has the pace to stay at the front. Maybe we could be better in Q3 but the cars of Esteban and Ryo were probably not as ready as before. But having one car in front and two cars in the sandwich to the Volvo guys is ideal for the strategy for the Main Race. But again I want to thank the team because they did a really fantastic job with the support of the drivers because it’s not been an easy weekend. WTCC MAC3 was the final conclusion of this fantastic job.


WTCC Norbert Michelisz-jpg WTCC Mehdi Bennani-jpg WTCC Nestor Girolami-jpg