Tiago Monteiro has been ruled out of participating in the FIA World Touring Car Cup’s season-opener in Marrakech. The Portuguese driver’s seat at the Boutsen Ginion Racing team will be filled by last year’s TCR Benelux champion Benjamin Lessennes.
The 41-year-old has not raced competitively since mid-July’s WTCC Race of Argentina, following which the Portuguese driver suffered an horrific high-speed testing accident at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in September.
The seriousness of his injuries – which included concussion, torn neck muscles and complications from blood clots that affected vertebrae, his eyes and nervous system – kept him sidelined for the rest of the season and ultimately cost him a shot at claiming the final WTCC Drivers’ Championship title.
Placed by Honda in Boutsen Ginion Racing for the inaugural FIA WTCR season, Monteiro looked to be on the comeback trail after successfully completing tests for the Belgian outfit at Monza and Zandvoort earlier this month. Worryingly, however, the bulk of driving duties were carried out by the team’s reserve driver Lessennes.
Honda has since announced that Monteiro is still not fit enough to return to competitive driving and will miss next weekend’s season-opening round on the streets of Marrakech.
“I knew this was a possibility as the way the human body is not an exact science,” said Monteiro.
“Although my physical condition has recovered extremely well, the same has not yet happened with my vision and the result is that I cannot yet return to competition.
“My recovery has been remarkable and the treatment I’ve received from my medical team has been incredible, but I simply cannot take the risk at this stage. I did everything that was within my reach, but both my body and vision are not yet fully recovered.
“I must take this opportunity to thank the fantastic team that has worked tirelessly to support me through this difficult process. Of course, I’m incredibly disappointed.
“I wanted the effects of the accident to be behind me and to start afresh for the new season. That’s not possible just yet, but I will continue my recovery as hard as I can in the expectation that everything will return to normal soon.
“Until then, I will support the team and my Honda colleagues and use my experience and knowledge as much as possible to help them achieve strong results. I may not be on-track, but I will be on-hand to make as much of a contribution as I can. It is very important to maintain team spirit and provide this support.”
“I am very pleased to make my FIA WTCR race debut with Boutsen Ginion Racing, although I wish it had been in happier circumstances,” Lessennes added.
“I don’t know how many races I will do before Tiago returns to his car, but I would like to send my best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.
“I have some good experience of the new Honda Civic Type R TCR from having tested late last year and – more recently – with Boutsen Ginion Racing at Zandvoort. I’m confident we can do a good job, although it is very clear that the level of competition in WTCR this year will be higher than what we’ve faced previously.”