Tiago Monteiro’s long-awaited return to racing has finally been confirmed. The Portuguese driver will make a one-off appearance in next weekend’s FIA World Touring Car Cup round at Suzuka ahead of a planned full-time return to racing next year.
The ex-Formula 1 driver suffered serious injuries in a high-speed testing accident at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in September last year. 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 that year’s World Touring Car Championship season and ultimately cost him a shot at claiming the series’ final Drivers’ Championship title.
Monteiro was forced to postpone his racing comeback despite originally being confirmed as part of the Boutsen Ginion Honda team’s driving line-up in the newly formed FIA World Touring Car Cup. His seat in the Honda Civic Type-R was taken by the team’s reserve driver Benjamin Lessennes for the first six rounds before Ma Qing Hua drove the car in the Chinese rounds at Ningbo and Wuhan.
More than 15 months after his last competitive outing, Monteiro will finally get the chance to race again at the 2018 WTCR season’s penultimate round at the Suzuka Circuit.
“I cannot even begin to tell you how good it feels to be back,” he said.
“There were times when the situation looked pretty bleak, but I never lost hope that this day would come and that has kept me determined to push harder than ever to get back to where I want to be.
“The fact that I’ll be returning at Honda’s home circuit – the same place I made my first WTCC start with them in 2012 – is also very special and a great way to repay the faith and support they’ve shown me throughout my recovery period.”
The 42-year-old was at pains not to set any expectations for his racing comeback.
“I’m not setting any targets; I just want to have fun, get comfortable and play myself in at my own pace before I come back full-time in 2019, and that – along with the advice of the doctors – is why I won’t do [the season finale in] Macau,” he added.
WTCR series boss François Ribeiro was additionally delighted to welcome Monteiro back to the starting grid.
“I can speak on behalf of every member of the WTCR OSCARO family when I say how pleased we are to welcome Tiago back to racing,” he said.
“His recovery has been lengthy and painful, but his determination to get back on track is an inspiration to us all. It’s been a long and tough road but Tiago never stopped believing this day would come and we are so happy for him.”
The FIA WTCR race of Japan at the Suzuka Circuit takes place on October 27-28.
Image via Honda Racing