During 2019, TCR Talk will be following the progress of the various British drivers racing in TCR Series abroad. We continue this series 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 continues this weekend at the Fuji circuit, for rounds five and six of the newest Touring Car competition in the land of the rising sun.
Last time out in Sugo…
The 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series held its second weekend of racing at Sugo, where Matt Howson endured a difficult weekend for the KCMG Honda squad and managed to maintain a small lead in the Driver’s Championship…
Shogo Mitsuyama of Green Brave Racing claimed his and Volkswagen’s maiden win in TCR Japan at Sugo Sportsland. Mitsuyama benefited from the mistakes of his rivals to take command at the start and then led for the whole race, controlling the return of Takuro Shinohara’s Audi.
Shinohara sat on pole position, but made a poor start, dropping to fourth behind Shuji Maejima’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Mitsuyama’s Golf and Matthew Howson’s Honda Civic. From second on the grid, Maejima was leading into turn one, but he spun off and rejoined at the back of the field.
On lap two, Shinohara moved into second overtaking Howson and began to close the gap from Mitsuyama. For the rest of the race, the Audi followed the Golf, but never found a gap to pass.
Behind the two leaders, Yu Kanamaru’s Team Goh Honda overtook the KCMG Civic of Yukinori Taniguchi for fourth and then attacked Howson’s third position. During the penultimate lap, Kanamaru made an attempt to pass on the outside line, but lost control and spun off.
Howson bolted into a podium position from fifth on the grid at the start of the first race in the #18 car, running in third for the majority of it. He came under late pressure from behind due to backmarker traffic, but he was able to fend off the attack to score his third podium in three races to retain his lead in the Driver Standings.
Shuji Maejima made up for the disappointment of Race one at Sugo by claiming a dominant victory in the second race.
The Go&Fun Alfa Romeo Giulietta had missed the opportunity to win the first race when Maejima spun after the start while he was leading the field into Turn one. He then rejoined at the back and was soon the fastest driver on the track.
In the second race, he luckily escaped a pile-up at the start that also involved pole sitter Takuro Shinohara’s Audi and the Honda Civic cars of Matthew Howson, Yu Kanamaru and Resshu Shioya. The collision was triggered by contact between Howson and Maejima whilst Kanamaru and Shinohara crashed and Shioya went off in avoidance.
Both Shinohara and Kanamaru were forced to retire, while Howson pitted with a punctured tyre. As the safety car was deployed and circulated for three laps, he had the opportunity to rejoin at the back of the field.
When the race resumed, Maejima was able to pull away from Takeshi Matsumoto, while Race one winner Shogo Mitsuyama overtook ‘Hirobon’ for fourth and began chasing Yukinori Taniguchi. On lap 8, Taniguchi spun off onto the gravel and this prompted the safety car into action again.
Racing resumed for the last lap, Maejima was able to build a slender margin, while Matsumoto kept Mitsuyama at bay to secure second place. ‘Hirobon’ was classified fourth.
Howson recovered to ninth and this helped him to retain the leadership in the standings, although his margin has been reduced to only four points ahead of Mitsuyama, while Matsumoto lies third, a further ten points adrift.
Howson’s thoughts ahead of Fuji…
Howson is back in action this weekend where he will race in rounds five and six of the series at Fuji, former home to the Japanese Grand Prix and often used venue for Endurance racing. The British driver will be joined by regular team-mate Yukinori Taniguchi and team principal Paul Ip, making his debut in the series.
Having endured a difficult time at Sugo, where the Honda driver carried maximum ballast and suffered from an early incident in race two, Howson gives his thoughts ahead of Fuji this weekend.
“The Fuji round of TCR Japan takes us over halfway in the season. As in Sugo, the objective is to preserve our championship lead. The last round was difficult to win outright due to the Balance of Performance going against us,” explained Howson.
“Hopefully there will be adjustments and the layout of the track will help us get back into contention. The long straight will make for some close action, so they should be exciting races until the final lap.”
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 in 2019.
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!