Sixty-seven F1 Grands Prix and the 1989 Italian F3 Championship title are the brightest jewels in Gianni Morbidelli’s racing career.
However, the 46-year old Italian gave proof to be very competitive in touring car competition as well.
The son of Giancarlo Morbidelli, founder and innovative designer of the Morbidelli motorcycling company that won four world championship titles in the Seventies, Gianni is not new to WTCC. He took part in the 2006 championship with the Alfa Romeo team, finishing twice second in Brazil and Mexico.
“I have memories of an extremely tough and professional championship, perfectly organised. Personally I claimed a few good results, but it was too short an experience to hope for something better.”
Un unfinished business then. Is this the reason why you decided to come back? “I had the need for racing at such top level once again. I’m here to bring myself into play again and to keep on living strong emotions. It’s a great challenge!”
New technical regulations mean that the cars have evolved significantly since you drove in 2006... “It‘s a big step forward. Technically speaking the new cars are much more sophisticated and have a much better look. I’m sure they will require a much greater commitment for the set up. At least this is my feeling, on the basis of what I have heard from those who have started the development on the track.”
Recently you had focused on Superstars and won four titles in six seasons. Do you think that experience will help you to get used to the WTCC cars? “Each experience is useful for extending your knowledge. Under the technical point of view the Supercars are different from the new WTCC vehicles. And in the three latest years I drove four-wheel driven cars, which will make me to review aspects of the set up and the driving itself.”
You will race in a Chevrolet Cruze, a car that dominated WTCC in the last four years. Are you confident that the new TC1 model will be competitive too? “I have complete confidence in the work of the RML people. They are experienced and skilled, as it was proved by the results achieved in WTCC by the cars they built. On the other hand, we are aware of the difficulties we will face in the first part of the season, because our competitors have built an abysmal advantage as far as technical development is concerned. We must face the first races with the goal of collecting data, getting used to the car and developing it. It won’t be easy, but is part of the game.”
Among the competitors are drivers you have met during your career, including Muller and Tarquini. Do you think they are tipped to fight for the title? “They are two champions and I have a lot of esteem for them. I’m sure they will be among those in contention for the World Champion’s crown. However, is far too early to make predictions, because in my career I learnt not to underrate any opponent.”
You have raced on a lot of circuits. Looking at the WTCC calendar, which one is your favourite and which one you don’t know? “It may sound strange for somebody who is racing since twenty-five years, but half of the tracks are new to me! On the other hand I’m very pleased to race again at Suzuka and Hungaroring.”
Have you fixed any personal goal for the upcoming season? “To be worried would result in a wrong approach to the season. I’m just aware of the difficulties we face and I’m not in a position to guess what to expect. But I am serene and I know I have to do my job in the best possible way considering the situation. I want to have fun! If you have fun, then you can make a good job. And I feel lucky because I make a job I love!”