FIA WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Macau Suncity Group Macau Guia Race
16-19 November 2017, FIA World Touring Car Championship, Rounds 17 and 18 of 20
Media Centre, Circuito da Guia, Macau, 16h00, 18 November
Rob Huff, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, DHL Pole Position, WTCC Trophy first position
Norbert Michelisz, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, second position
Tom Chilton, Sébastien Loeb Racing, third position
Alessandro Mariani, Team Honda, WTCC MAC3 winning team representative
We’ll come first to Rob Huff, pole position number 13 of your WTCC career and your sixth at Macau after an amazing lop that was not only inside your qualifying lap record but also the race lap record. Just explain your lap and how that time was possible?
If we could race at Macau for 12 rounds of the championship that would be great. It’s been a really tough weekend. The car wasn’t quite where I thought it would be in my expectations coming here and we’ve had to work really hard to put it where it needs to be. In the end I was very, very happy. The track always starts very slow but as you saw we gained four or five seconds from yesterday’s practice. It’s just finding the grip and exploring the circuit. I was last here two years ago in the TCR car, which of course is much slower and the track is different in a TCR car to what it is in a WTCC car. It took a bit of readjusting and I saved everything for the last lap in Q2 and then Q3. We we only needed to be in the top 12, which we knew we’d comfortably do and then we needed top five and I wanted to have a big push in Q2 to see what the car was like really on the limit and then just find a little bit more in Q3. I’m super-happy for the team, it's thoroughly deserved, we’ve had some pretty rotten luck and a few mistakes from my side and the team’s side this year. If there’s one place, I want to be able to put it right it’s here at Macau.
Turning next to Norbert Michelisz from the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, you’ve equalled the record of six consecutive front-row starts in the WTCC and closed the gap in the title race to 14.5 points but it wasn’t quite pole. Can you still be satisfied?
Yeah, we did our best to do a good job. I managed to maximise my possibilities. I am still looking at the championship but I still need 15 more than Thed. But I’m still looking forward to the race tomorrow and especially on Sunday. Last but not least congrats to Rob because he just did an amazing job. I was trying to go for it in Q3 but I’m not sure if it’s possible to beat this man around here. Also he had some bad luck throughout the so he really deserved this. Also congrats Tom, a very good job. I’ll try to gain a position in the Main Race but for sure it’s going to be difficult.
Turning next to your team boss Alessandro Mariani, representative of Honda, the winning team in Manufacturers Against the Clock. Significant in terms of point scored in your battle for the world championship but talk us through the team performance here today?
I’m pretty happy because I knew that when we arrived here we knew Citroën had a very light car in comparison with us so we expected Rob and the other cars to be very strong as they are. Then, as usual, in a qualifying session at Macau it’s a big challenge with many red flags and many crashes. It’s very difficult when you have a competitive car to realise your potential, we did it, of course Q3 Rob could exploit his fabulous driving here and the car but for sure to be second it’s a very good result for the championship. What surprised me was the reaction of Volvo because yesterday they were not so strong but step by step [Thed] Björk was able to catch a good position but unfortunately for us and for the championship.”
Turning next to Tom Chilton from Sébastien Loeb Racing. Third fastest in qualifying and second in the WTCC Trophy after overcoming a few handling problems earlier on?
Congratulations to my mate Rob Huff, fantastic job mate and also to Norbi who has man ‘flu like me, which is a terrible disease! And Honda winning MAC3. And ourselves, Sébastien Loeb Racing, we’ve been very strong out of the box all weekend, we’ve been very quick. I’m a great believer of where you are in Free Practice 1 is where you are in qualifying. I was third in FP1 and I’m third in qualifying. We had to work very hard. As much as we were fast the handling wasn’t perfect at all and we had to do a lot of set-up changes to get to where we got to. I can’t believe the bad luck we had in qualifying that I was one of only four SLR cars to finish. I’m happy my team-mates are all okay because it’s a brutal circuit, not very forgiving. But I’m over the moon because I’ve never actually been in this press conference room before because I’ve never been in the top three so I’m very happy.
And a final word to Rob Huff. Currently you share the record number of wins with Michael Rutter here at Macau. What are the chances of making it a ninth record-breaking victory this weekend?
Let’s see. They’ve [the motorcycles] have also got a race. To have the record of car wins in Macau is something very special but of course I want to beat Rutter to nine. Hopefully I’ve got a few more years left to beat him. But I want to win a race for the team, they’ve thoroughly deserved it. I’m not in the championship, everyone around me knows that and everyone knows I’ll be going flat out to get the win so let’s see.
Questions from the floor:
To Norbert Michelisz from Pietro Casillo, TouringCarTimes.com (Sweden): Norbi, you have a chance to fight for the victory will you hold back to take the points for second or will you not hold back knowing you have to make up the points to Björk?
That’s a good question. I was thinking about exactly the same when Rob was answering. The problem is I’m behind in the championship and the difference between first and second is seven points so I don’t know. It really depends what is going to happen after the start. I genuinely believe Rob is faster than me, he will be fast in the races. Even if I have a good start to win here will be a really tough race. It will depend. To be honest I am always the type to go for it, not really thinking about the championship. If I was leading, yes, but not when I am behind because 14.5 is some margin and if I can grab the seven points it can be better for me.