TCR Talk – The Brits Abroad: Howson aims to close the gap at Okayama

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 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series for KCMG Honda…

The 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series continued its maiden season of competition, with the third weekend of action taking place at Fuji. Here is the TCR Talk roundup of Matt’s performance at the Fuji International Speedway, before the series took its summer break, where race one took place on Saturday and race two took place on Sunday…

Race One at Fuji…

Matt Howson. Credit: KCMG / TCR Japan

Yu Kanamaru drove his Team Goh Honda Civic to a second victory of the year in TCR Japan’s race one at the Fuji Speedway. It was a remarkable win as Kanamaru had started from the back of the grid following an engine change after Qualifying.

The start took place on a very wet track with Shuji Maejima’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta taking the lead at the start but was serious pressure by Matthew Howson, Shogo Mitsuyama and pole-sitter Takuro Shinohara. The Alfa slid wide at the last corner of the first lap, having to let past its three rivals. Takeshi Matsumoto took the lead and the positions stabilized with Matsumoto able to build a small gap and the others fighting for the remaining top positions as they struggled with the wet track.

On lap five, Matsumoto was still in the lead, followed by ‘Hirobon’, Mitsuyama, Maejima, Kanamaru and Howson. Maejima, Kanamaru and Howson were engaged in a superb fight for fourth place, with ‘Hirobon’ slowly catching Matsumoto and closing him down on lap seven. On a drying track, the top six drivers closed up again and after a couple of daring moves, Kanamaru took the lead ahead of Matsumoto, Mitsuyama, ‘Hirobon’, Maejima and Howson.

Matt Howson. Credit: KCMG / TCR Japan

With Kanamaru opening up a gap from Matsumoto, this left ‘Hirobon’, Maejima and Mitsuyama all fighting for the final podium place. The battle went right down to the final lap, with Maejima and ‘Hirobon’ side by side as they started the lap with ‘Hirobon’ easing ahead of them both.

It didn’t last however as Maejima retook third place. Mitsuyama passed ‘Hirobon’ briefly lie in fourth place, however ‘Hirobon’ quickly struck back to regain the position by the finish line.

Kanamaru won the race, with Matsumoto in second ahead of Maejima. ‘Hirobon’ held off the determined Mitsuyama to finish fourth while Howson was sixth and retained the lead in the standings, though his advantage over Mitsuyama was reduced to a single point. Matsumoto lies in third position a further five points adrift, while Kanamaru has moved up into fourth with a gap of nine points to Howson.

Race Two at Fuji…

The 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series at Fuji International Speedway. Credit: TCR Japan.

In a rainy and foggy day on the slopes of Mount Fuji, Yu Kanamaru claimed another dominant win in TCR Japan’s second race of the weekend. This was the third for him in the season so far and the second of the weekend.

The result propelled the Team Goh Models driver and his Honda Civic on top of the standings, eight points clear of the Volkswagen pair of Takeshi Matsumoto and Shogo Mitsuyama.

Previous leader Matthew Howson dropped to fourth in the points after he retired in the early stages of the race due to a suspected engine issue.

After winning pole position beating Matsumoto by 0.045 seconds, Kanamaru took the lead at the start from Howson and Matsumoto. During the first lap Matsumoto overtook Howson who then dropped back through the field with a misfire caused his first retirement of the season.

Behind the two leaders raged the battle for the third position between Mitsuyama, Takuro Shinohara and Shuji Maejima with Maejima overtaking Shinohara for fourth on lap four. Further behind, KCMG Team Principal Paul Ip, who had started the race in fourteenth place, passed ‘Yoshiki’ for sixth.

On lap five, Maejima advanced to third, overtaking Mitsuyama, while ‘Hirobon’ was also climbing through the field and passed ‘Yoshiki’, Ip and Shinohara to finish the race in fifth position. The final two laps of the race saw Maejima stealing second place from Matsumoto and Ip taking sixth place by overtaking Shinohara.

Howson reflects on Fuji

Matt Howson. Credit: KCMG / TCR Japan

“Fuji was a very tough weekend with changeable weather, having set the pace in the wet in testing we expected better from two wet races. Tyre performance issues in race one meant only sixth could be salvaged having climbed into the lead, and while battling for the win again in race two we suffered a misfire and had to retire the car,” explained Howson.

“That’s motorsport and we will focus on the remaining two rounds while we hold a strong position in the championship.”

Howson’s thoughts ahead of Okayama…

Howson enters this weekend as one of the overall protagonists as he sits fourth in the standings. He will also utilise his knowledge of the 3.703km circuit from his two years in Japanese Formula 3 in a bid to close the points gap ahead of the Suzuka finale on 26-27 October.

“After an unlucky round at Fuji with tyre and engine troubles in both races, Okayama will be the opportunity to get our championship back on track,” explained Howson.

“I went well here in Formula 3 and I expect this circuit will suit the Honda Civic Type R TCR FK8, so I will work hard in testing to make sure we get the absolute best from the car. I anticipate a tough battle as scoring points becomes more and more critical.”

The 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series at Fuji International Speedway. Credit: TCR Japan.

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!

Phil!!!

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