WTCR at Suzuka: Japanese victories for Ceccon, Huff, Tarquini
The ninth and the penultimate round of the 2018 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup took place at Suzuka Circuit. Three different drivers in three different cars clinched victories in three races – Kevin Ceccon (Alfa Romeo Giulietta), Rob Huff (VW Golf) and Gabriele Tarquini (Hyundai i30).
On Saturday, the Italian driver won the Race 1 in the Italian car – Kevin Ceccon in the #31 Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR of Team Mulsanne. It was the first WTCR win for the Italian brand and the first victory for Ceccon in his fresh touring car career. He became the 14th different winner in the 2018 WTCR season while Alfa Romeo became the seventh brand on the top podium spot.
Ceccon started second on the grid, next to Aurelien Comte in the DG Sport Compétition’s #7 Peugeot 308 TCR, taking the lead on lap 2. He survived two Safety Car interventions and won a race ahead of Comte and Yvan Muller in the #48 Hyundai i30 N TCR. That result tied Muller in the points with leader Gabriele Tarquini.
In the second race of the weekend, Rob Huff scored his second win of the season in the #12 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR of Sebastien Loeb Racing. Huff started from P2 but took the lead from reverse grid pole sitter Pepe Oriola (Campos Racing Cupra) in Turn 1 of Lap 1, staying in front until the end of the race.
Norbert Michelisz (BRC Racing Hyundai) chased Oriola all the way to the flag but had to be satisfied with the third-place finish. Gabriele Tarquini finished fifth in the #30 Hyundai, taking over the championship lead ahead of Yvan Muller, who finished the race in P11.
In the third race of the weekend, Kevin Ceccon started from pole but he was passed by Gabriele Tarquini (#30 Hyundai i30 N TCR) at the start. Ceccon then took back the lead but, being judged to have been incorrectly placed in its grid slot, he received a five-second penalty. That allowed Tarquini to take the victory, his fifth in the season.
Ceccon was classified third, behind Aurelien Comte. Yvan Muller had one more disastrous race, dropping back to P21 after a contact with Michelisz. He is now 30 points behind Tarquini in a title fight.
The WTCR meeting at Suzuka marked a return of Tiago Monteiro to the competitive action, after more than 400 days out of racing because of injuries. He didn’t manage to score points in the #18 Honda Civic Type R TCR of Boutsen Ginion Racing but the most important is that he is back.