Nineteen year-old, Attila Tassi, will embark on his first full-season campaign in the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) this year. Having debuted as a wildcard in 2018, the TCR Europe Series race winner will step up to the world championship of touring car racing on a full-time basis in 2019.
The Honda-backed prodigy will drive a Civic Type R TCR for the Hong-Kong racing outfit, KCMG. The announcement ensures a degree of continuity for Tassi, as he drove for the team in the TCR Europe Series last year. He’ll also be able to draw upon a wealth of experience from his previoulsy-confirmed team-mate for 2019, Tiago Monteiro.
After making his return to racing late last year, Monteiro will compete in his first full season of competition since the crash in 2017 that sidelined him for so long. Together, Monteiro and Tassi form a formidable line-up, albeit within the context of what is turning out to be an incredibly high-quality entry list.
With KCMG joining Munnich Motorsport in running Honda machinery this year, the Japanese marque’s four-car quota has been fulfilled. As such, the departure of Boutsen Ginion Racing – who ran Hondas for Tom Coronel, Benjamin Lessennes, Ma Qing Hua and Tiago Monteiro last year – seems increasingly more likely unless the Belgian outfit decide to switch to another manufacturer for the upcoming season.
On his arrival to the championship, Attila Tassi said: “I’m absolutely delighted to become a Honda Racing driver and to step up to the WTCR for a full season with KCMG. It’s a dream come true and I’m very grateful to have this opportunity at 19 years of age. So far in my racing career I’ve always been able to fight for victories and podiums, but I know that this will be the highest-level series I’ve ever contested and I had a taste of this in my wildcard outing at the Hungaroring last year.”
Tassi achieved two race victories in the TCR Europe Series last year, along with a further three podium results en route to 4th place in the drivers’ championship standings. Despite this, the youngster is aware of the size of the transition he’ll have to make in 2019: “There will be many circuits I have never been to before and lots of new additional things too, so I know that I have to take this as a learning year, but the environment in the team is very good for a young driver like me, so we can achieve some strong results and move forwards during the year.”
Ex-Formula One driver, Monteiro, will be taking a different approach to the season however. The 42 year-old Portuguese ace has every intention of winning the outright championship this year – an achievement which was seemingly snatched away from him at the mid-point of 2017 after he became unable to race due to injury.
“It’s incredibly exciting to return to racing full time this year with KCMG and Honda and to welcome a young, fast and determined team-mate in Attila, who I know will be great to work with,” said Monteiro. “KCMG may be new to WTCR, but they have a fantastic track record in every form of motorsport they’ve contested plus a huge amount of touring car experience within the team, so we should be competitive from the first event.”
“It’s been a long road to recovery, but the support I’ve been shown throughout by Honda, the WTCR and the entire motorsport family has been incredible. Attending the events when I wasn’t racing was tough, and my comeback in Japan was incredibly emotional. It’s been a tough journey, but I have no doubt that I’m stronger and more motivated than I’ve ever been and eager to win the championship that was taken away from me by injury in 2017.”
At KCMG, both drivers should be provided with an environment in which they can thrive. The Hong-Kong outfit may be relatively new to touring car racing, however they’re a well-established and highly-successful name in Asian GT racing, not to mention the fact that they took an LMP2 class victory at Le Mans in 2015.
KCMG Team Manager, Paul Ip – who has been racing one of the Civics in the TCR Malaysia Series already this year – said: “We are very happy to make the step up to a full-time WTCR programme with the Honda Civic Type R TCR in 2019. In Tiago we have one of the most experienced touring car drivers in the world, who has been a consistent race winner at this level and in Attila we have an exciting young prospect who raced with us last year and has the potential to go right to the top of the tree in WTCR.”