FIA WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan, 27-29 October 2017
FIA World Touring Car Championship 2017: Rounds 15 and 16 of 20
Thed Björk, Polestar Cyan Racing
Esteban Guerrieri, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team
Ryo Michigami, Honda Racing Team JAS
Kris Richard, Campos Racing
Turning to Esteban Guerrieri first, talk us through the last couple of days ahead of your debut with the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, I think you described them as being quite strange?
It was very intense this couple of days, I found out basically the decision that I was going to race for Castrol Honda when I landed here in Japan so Japan received me very good! I was very happy and I want to thank Castrol Honda for this great opportunity. For me it’s an honour to reach this team and obviously I am very, very happy. It’s been quite intense after the race in China. Unfortunately, I am here because of Tiago’s injury and that feels not right, of course. Also it doesn’t feel going away from one team and changing to another team but Campos was very pleased to let me go with Honda and I also want to thank them. They were really good with me and they are very good friends. Now the weekend has really started and I am very happy to try the car and have some good feelings. But I want to wish Tiago a healthy and quick recovery.
The track conditions looked quite difficult for your first time at Twin Ring Motegi. What was it like out there in FP1?
We came from a wet weekend in China so the feelings were quite similar on the grip side. But this track there are no puddles, no standing water, which is great. I only just concentrated on driving and feeling the Honda car. From the beginning it was really good with really good feelings. I could work on different things, different details but basically it was a normal session with me adapting to the car and everything but everything was smooth so I am very pleased.
Turning next to you Ryo-san and a fantastic performance by you in those difficult conditions. A great time by you at your home track?
I am happy to come back to Japan. It’s a very big week but I am enjoying my home country. Anyway it has been the first time for me to race all over the world in this series against many fast and experience drivers. It’s been frustrating for me because I wasn’t able to perform in the way I wish I could but now I am at my home track, this track was built 20 years ago and I have been racing here since then. I am very aware of this track and confident here. This time because our cars weren’t delivered [to the track] earlier everything has been in a hurry and I have been frustrated a bit with that. But once I got in the car this afternoon everything felt really good. I feel much better now and really looking forward to doing my very best here. Obviously all the drivers are very good but tomorrow in the qualifying I really hope to be able to go all the way to Q3.
Based on your feeling and level of confidence what can you achieve in the races?
Because we have 80 kilograms of extra weight… tomorrow it will probably rain again and I felt my performance was better in the rain. I feel sorry for the public who will be watching the race in the rain but for us it will be good conditions.
Turning next to Thed Björk, the lead of the FIA World Touring Car Championship arriving here in Japan. Your time in Free Practice 1 perhaps didn’t represent your championship position so can you explain what you were trying to achieve during that session – did everything go to plan?
I started out very well and was at the top of the session and we tried some stuff that was not working. So I will look at Nicky afterwards to see what he did and we will do the same for tomorrow because he was [second quickest]. It will be a big challenge with all the rain but we are used to it now coming from China and we will just have to start fighting tomorrow again. But the session was perfect, like a normal Free Practice 1 testing different things.
As the championship leader are you feeling any pressure and what’s your target for tomorrow – go all-out for the win or to settle for good points?
So I’m not telling you the tactics, only the team! My focus is just to continue focusing on what I am doing and do it in a relaxed why, optimising the car and me together just to be as fast as possible. That’s the only point. I am now the leader of the championship and it feels a very nice feeling to be leading this highly competitive championship. I just focus on doing the same thing that I always do.
Turning to Kris Richard, your first time at this track, your first time in Japan, your first time in this car, your first time with this team, everything is new for you so what was it like out there during those first 45 minutes?
First of all, I would like to send my best to Tiago because he’s not here I can be here because Esteban is in his car and I am driving Esteban’s car. It was a really busy week for me. On Tuesday I was still at my normal work when my phone was ringing. It was Eric Nève [from the WTCC offering me the drive] so I go home, pack my things together and go to the airport. Now I am very happy to be here. For me a lot of new things compared to the TCR car. There are more functions in the car, more things you can adjust. In the last few years always when I raced it was sunny and today it was the first time in the wet for two years. I took it step by step. I didn’t want to crash the car, I was adapting myself to it and I improved lap by lap. I have to work to become one piece with the car because that’s the most important thing. I need to continue to become more confident and brake later and go faster. But I am really looking forward to tomorrow. I don’t look too much to the result of Free Practice 1. I am just pleased to be here and working with the team to improve.
It must be a bit like your first day at school so have the other drivers been good to you and what advice have you been given?
I trust try to be as much relaxed as I can but it’s not so easy. There are lot more things to do, more people. I really need to focus on myself and do what I think is the right way. I am really happy and I want to say thank you to all the people who helped me to be here. After two laps today the left wiper don’t run, I only have the right one so hopefully the team can fix it for tomorrow. But I am really optimistic.
Questions from the floor:
To Ryo Michigami from Hiroyuki Orihara, Gazoo.com: It’s the first time at a track you’re familiar with so what will be your advantage here?
At all the other tracks I spend most of the time learning the tracks and less time on the settings so I usually use Tiago’s or Norbi’s but here I have a better chance because I can work on the settings, I know the track. Even though I was a bit later to Free Practice I was able to understand the feeling of the car and was able to do what I intended to do.
To Ryo Michigami from Hiroyuki Orihara, Gazoo.com: What position do you think you can reach?
It’s a difficult question but obviously I want to get better results than I’ve had this season.
World Touring Car Championship
WTCCRace of JapanWTCCSEASON 2017SportCircuit1SportWorld Touring Car ChampionshipCircuitWTCCSEASON 2017WTCCRace of Japan00Saturday, October 28, 2017 – 11:30amSaturday, October 28, 2017 – 11:30am