During 2019, TCR Talk will be following the progress of the various British drivers racing in TCR Series abroad. We start this series off with Matt Howson, who is competing in the new for 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series for KCMG Honda…
The 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series got underway this weekend at the Autopolis circuit, heralding a new era of Touring Car competition in the land of the rising sun.
Qualifying at Autopolis
Matt Howson drove his KCMG Honda Civic to set the first-ever pole position of the new TCR Japan Touring Car Series at Autopolis International Racing Course.
After a promising start during the free practice sessions, 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 winner Howson took a brilliant last-gasp pole position by almost half-a-second in the first-ever TCR Japan qualifying, on his Autopolis debut.
On a rainy morning, the Briton posted the fastest lap of 2:10.625 in the final part of the 20-minute session that had been disrupted by a red flag after five minutes in order to recover the Go&Fun Squadra Corse Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Shuji Maejima that was stranded onto the gravel trap.
Takuro Shinohara qualified second in the Hitotsuyama Motorsport Audi RS 3 LMS (2:11.050) and was followed by Yu Kanamaru in the Team Goh Honda (2:11.273) and Shogo Mitsuyama in the Green Brave Volkswagen Golf GTI (2:11.601).
Race One at Autopolis
On a day of firsts for new TCR series around the world, Matt Howson became the latest driver to win a TCR race when he took a lights-to-flag victory in the first round of the brand new TCR Japan Touring Car Series at Autopolis.
With the race declared wet, the first two laps were run behind the safety car as Howson’s KCMG Honda Civic leading the 14-car field across the start line when the safety car came in. Spray was then an issue for a number of laps, together with patches of standing water off the racing line.
In a what turned out to be a quiet first race, Howson managed to keep the KCMG Honda Civic on the iskand and stay out of trouble to take his first win in a TCR car, with Takuro Shinohara’s Audi and the Honda of Yu Kanamaru completing the podium places.
With the first race running in wet conditions, Howson made sure not to put a foot wrong on board the #18 Honda, and wrapped up a stunning first day with a lights to flag victory, picking up the fastest lap in the process and confirming the Civic Type R’s strong pace in any condition.
In the Cup Class, team-mate Yukinori Taniguchi finished sixth in the second KCMG Honda after passing ‘Yoshiki’ on Lap 8. the former WTCC made good progress in the drying conditions, putting his experience to good use.
Race Two at Autopolis
Howson has to settle for second place in the second of the 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series as Yu Kanamaru with the Honda Civic of Team Goh, took victory in Race 2.
The starts saw poleman Takuro Shinohara, driving a Hitotsuyama Motorsport Audi RS 3 LMS, struggling to keep the advantage from Kanamaru, who made a great start from row 2, Howson, Yukinori Taniguchi (KCMG Honda), Resshu Shioya (G/Motion Honda), Takeshi Matsumoto (Wakayama Volkswagen) and Shogo Mitsuyama (Green Brave Volkswagen). The leader was soon in troubles, as his Audi slowed down and stopped in the pits.
Kanamuru inherited the lead ahead of Howson and Matsumoto, who had moved up to third with a couple of great overtaking manoeuvres.
Race 1 winner Howson got his head down and made sure that once again he kept the KCMG run Honda in good shape, holding off the faster Wakayama Volkswagen Golf GTI of Takeshi Matsumoto after an entertaining race on a damp track. Howson leads the overall standings after this inaugural event of the series.
Howson reflects on Autopolis…
“This weekend will forever be something I’ll remember fondly. I was lucky to deliver KCMG’s first Formula 3 win in 2008 as PTRS Racing in Asian F3, be part of its first World Endurance Championship class win in Austin 2014 and now its debut TCR Japan victory at Autopolis.”
“Conditions were so changeable all weekend and we didn’t always get the strategy quite right, but coming away with a pole, win and fastest lap followed up by a front row start and a P2 finish was beyond expectation.”
“Thank you to my team for the huge effort and my engineer Matteo for giving me an amazing car in all conditions.”
The next rounds of the 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series will be at Sugo on 22-23 June.
TCR Talk will be following Matt Howson as he competes in one of the newest TCR Series that is part of the Global TCR Family.
I will be keeping things up to date on here as well as in The Official TCR Talk Group & The TCR UK Fans Group where members will also be sharing their thoughts and any news from The 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR), The 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series, The 2019 TCR UK Touring Car Championship and other Domestic & Regional TCR Series from around the world.
All images are used in this blog are courtesy of KCMG / TCR Japan unless otherwise credited.
Until next time, all the best!