Wildcard weekend: Diary of a WTCR debut by José Rodrigues
José Rodrigues made his WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup by OSCARO debut as a wildcard in his native Portugal last weekend. Here’s what happened when Tiago Monteiro’s protégé got his big chance in Vila Real.
Thursday 21 June
17h50: After meeting Rui Santos, the Mayor of Vila Real, during a welcome reception, Rodrigues joins his fellow WTCR OSCARO racers for the traditional autograph session in the Praça de Municipio.
Friday 22 June
10h00: A busy day of promotional activities begins with the official WTCR driver portrait shoot.
14h00: Local media get their first chance to see Rodrigues with the Target Competition Honda he’ll use in WTCR Race of Portugal during a pitlane photoshoot. Fellow wildcard Edgar Florindo and Tiago Monteiro, who is helping to manage Rodrigues, also take part.
17h30: It’s Drivers’ Briefing time and time for important instructions from the highly-respected FIA WTCR Race Director Miroslav Bartos.
Saturday 23 June
09h30: Free Practice 1 ends and Rodrigues is P23 as his WTCR OSCARO debut is officially go!
11h30: The Portuguese driver’s 2m04.466s beats his ETCC best lap from 2017 despite his Honda being 20 kilograms heavier in line with wildcard rules. But there’s trouble brewing…
12h30: Qualifying begins with Rodrigues on the sidelines: running over a kerb in FP2 leaves his Honda with a holed sump and there’s no time to make repairs, forcing the Braga-based driver to miss out on the battle for grid spots.
16h00: From P24 on the grid, Rodrigues makes it through the multi-car accident in Race 1 “without much damage”, which means he’ll be able to take the restart only for a gearbox issue to force him to stop seven laps in.
21h00: After a tough and intense day on and off track, it’s party time as Vila Real’s residents head onto the streets in huge number to celebrate the Festa de São João. Rodrigues joins his WTCR OSCARO rivals at one of several street parties.
Sunday 24 June
12h00: More autograph signing, only this time it’s at the Nosso Shopping Mall close to the Vila Real paddock where hundreds of fans gather to meet their heroes.
16h15: Rodrigues proves he’s keen on making progress by climbing from P23 to P16 in Race 2.
17h45: The Rodrigues street-fighting qualities are also evident in Race 3: from P24 he’s in P12 when he punctures and hits a wall and falls to P15 in the final classification. “I’ve raced here five times now, and that final race was by far the toughest I’ve had. The heat was incredible and my car is heavier and less powerful than anything else here due to the compensation weight, wildcard weight and BoP. But, despite this, I think I could have points in Race 3 because I was up from P24 to P12 and keeping pace with Tom Coronel and Esteban Guerrieri. Unfortunately, I got a puncture and hit the wall, but I’m so pleased with the job we’ve done as a team today in the circumstances.”