WTCR Race of Japan build-up: Monteiro’s comeback revisited
Tiago Monteiro made a heroic – and hugely emotional – return to racing at Suzuka on 26 October 2018 after 415 days of fighting to recover from the serious head and neck injuries sustained in a testing crash that could so easily have ended his career.
In highly-charged scenes at WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan, drivers from the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO formed a guard of honour in the Suzuka pit lane. They then watched Monteiro take to the track for Free Practice 1 before following the Portuguese on to the 5.807-kilometre circuit.
Speaking over live intercom at the time, Monteiro, who was then driving a Honda Civic Type R TCR for Boutsen Ginion Racing, said: “This is a very emotional time, to come back after 14 months. I am trying to focus on practice, but there are a lot of emotions, so many. I’ve got tears in my eyes. I’ve had an unbelievable reception from everyone in the WTCR Eurosport family. I’ve been dreaming about this for so long and now we are here. That is why I am in love with this sport and this championship.”
Monteiro’s first flying lap was a 2m16.453s although the ex-grand prix racer insisted before the travelling to Japan that performance was secondary to reacclimatising to the rigours of World Touring Car racing. And François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCR promoter, was just delighted he was back: “This was a very emotional moment not just for Tiago but for everyone at Honda and the entire WTCR family. We are so happy he’s back where he belongs on track in a racing car.”
Looking back on that triumphant day, Monteiro said when asked at WTCR Race of China last month: “It was the place where I returned after my accident with this fantastic welcome I had from the whole paddock. It was quite emotional and I just want to follow up on that.”
Although his comeback at Suzuka was always intended as a one-off, it wasn’t long before his full-time return to racing – for a season in WTCR / OSCARO in a KCMG Honda Civic Type R TCR was confirmed.
Attila Tassi, his KCMG team-mate, remembers Monteiro’s return at Suzuka with great fondness even though he was thousands of miles in his native Hungary watching on TV. “It was emotional even for me,” said Tassi, who was 19 at the time and with only three starts to his name in WTCR / OSCARO as a wildcard. “I had met him only once, one month before his accident so it was emotional, even watching on the TV. I remember my father also likes him and was almost crying when he saw it. It was very good to see him coming back. Last year it was a competitive field and he was strong in the midfield so it was good to see.”
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