KC Motorgroup Ltd. (KCMG) comes away from the inaugural TCR Japan Touring Car Series round at Autopolis with the lead in the overall and class championships, after scoring wins and podiums across both races.
For the season opener, KCMG fielded a pair of Honda Civic Type R TCR FK8 cars for British driver Matthew Howson and Japanese driver Yuke Taniguchi, with the latter competing in the Gentleman class for bronze-grade drivers.
After a promising start during the free practice sessions, 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 winner Howson took a brilliant last-gasp pole position by almost half-a-second in the first-ever TCR Japan qualifying, on his Autopolis debut.
“’This weekend will forever be something I’ll remember fondly,” said Matthew Howson about his weekend. “I was lucky to deliver KCMG’s first Formula 3 win in 2008 as PTRS Racing in Asian F3, be part of its first World Endurance Championship class win in Austin 2014 and now its debut TCR Japan victory at Autopolis. Conditions were so changeable all weekend and we didn’t always get the strategy quite right, but coming away with a pole, win and fastest lap followed up by a front row start and a P2 finish was beyond expectation. Thank you to my team for the huge effort and my engineer Matteo for giving me an amazing car in all conditions.”
Paul Ip, Team Founder, said: “We are delighted with the performance of Matt, Yuke, the car and the team overall. We lead the teams’ championship, with Matt and Yuke also ahead in the Saturday Series drivers’ standings. Our experience of the car and TCR series has helped us achieve a fantastic result at Autopolis, and we can expect to come back even stronger at Sportsland Sugo, which we performed well at in Super Taikyu.”
With the first race running in wet conditions, Howson made sure not to put a foot wrong on board the #18 Honda, and wrapped up a stunning first day with a lights to flag victory, picking up the fastest lap in the process and confirming the Civic Type R’s strong pace in any condition.
Howson was just 0.024 seconds off pole in a rain-effected second qualifying session, with the Briton’s time good enough for the front row. KCMG’s 2019 Super Taikyu driver came out on top of a closely fought battle for second, with his two podium results earning KCMG top spot in the teams’ standings.
Meanwhile, Taniguchi also enjoyed a strong return to touring car racing, going third fastest of the Gentleman drivers in qualifying one. The former Blancpain GT Series Asia ace battled for the class lead, moving into the lead with just three minutes remaining, which he held until the chequered flag to claim victory.
Having gone third fastest in class again in qualifying two, Taniguchi’s #72 Honda Civic remained in a tight podium fight amongst the Gentleman runners, claiming third at the finish.
This result sees KCMG lead the teams’ standings, with Howson first in the Saturday Series drivers’ championship and second in the Sunday Series. Taniguchi also tops the Saturday Series Gentleman classification and is third in the Sunday Series.
Next for the Hong Kong squad in TCR Japan is Sportsland Sugo on 22/23 June, which is once again in support of the Super Formula championship.