Gabriele Tarquini is not especially happy to be called the doyen of WTCC.
In 2014 he will turn 52, facing his tenth season in the world championship and his 25th in touring car racing. And yet, his spirit and ambitions are still those of a young driver.
He is one of the most successful WTCC drivers, with 19 race victories, 17 pole positions, one World title (2009) and three second places (2008, 2010 and 2013) in the Drivers’ Championship.
Now he looks at the 2014 season – his second with Honda Castrol Racing – with clear ideas and his natural optimism.
The Italian is thrilled by the idea of driving the new-spec car...
“More power and speed make a driver happy! Though I don’t feel the new cars will be more difficult to drive, because more sophisticated aerodynamics and suspension, bigger brakes and more tyre on the track will compensate for the increase of power. For sure the cars have gained sex appeal and this may attract new fans, like those who said that the previous generation of cars was too close to the production models. I think that on the track we need to be more cautious in making side-to-side contacts, because the suspension are more fragile. And maybe overtaking will be more difficult because of higher speeds and shorter braking spaces.”
The Honda Castrol Racing team will soon start testing the new car...
“The original plan was to start testing earlier with an hybrid Civic. And finally it was decided to wait for the full new-spec machine, because Honda R&D and JAS Motorsport have enough skill and experience to design and develop a competitive car from a blank page. And I can’t wait to start testing, because I wish to give my contribution in telling the technicians which way to go for the technical development.”
Besides Citroën, Honda will face LADA and the RML-built cars during the season...
“By signing Huff, LADA made clear they want to invest on the championship and the new car. The new technical regulations will help them to compensate for the weak points of the production model. They already had one of the most powerful engines. Now the team has gained experience and they have two top drivers. I bet they will surprise a lot of people. As for RML, they proved they can win without the backing of a manufacturer. I would be very surprise if the new Cruze won’t be on top from the start.”
And what are Tarquini’s ambitions for the coming season?
“I am aware that we face a bunch of strong competitors, especially Citroën’s dream team that benefit from vast resources. However, I don’t feel defeated. I’m still among the fastest drivers and hope I have not… aged too much during this Christmas break. As a matter of fact I still feel very young and fit! My personal goal is to improve last year’s result… that would mean to be World Champion for the second time. But more than this, our priority is winning the Manufacturers’ Championship once again.”