2009 WTCC champion Gabriele Tarquini has revealed he had already reached a deal to stay at Lada in 2017 before the Russian manufacturer announced its withdrawal from the series.
Tarquini finds himself facing involuntary redundancy for the second time in 12 months, and heads to Qatar not knowing whether this weekend's round will be his last in the championship.
This time last year, Honda had also not made a decision on drivers, but a few weeks later it emerged the Japanese manufacturer had decided to drop Tarquini, which left him free to effectively swap places with Rob Huff at Lada.
Tarquini’s arrival at the team helped turn around the performance of the Vesta WTCC, especially in the wet, as the 54-year-old took Lada to its first victory in front of the marque’s home crowd at Moscow Raceway.
“I am quite pleased with my season,” said Tarquini. “I think for the effort we put together at the Lada, we’ve improved a lot.
“We dominated the Russian race weekend… and it’s really a shame we cannot continue. I had agreed with Lada to continue and it’s a great shame because we can do a really good car.”
Tarquini admits the future looks bleak for him in the WTCC, with just Honda and Volvo left in terms of manufacturer entries, both of which he’s previously raced for in both the WTCC and STCC.
“There are few seats left,” remarked Tarquini. “I have very long experience in motorsport. For sure I am watching around and looking for some options in other categories, but I still have some chance to run in WTCC again.
“I love the category, I love WTCC, it’s part of my life. [Counting] the previous ETCC, I’ve been racing there since the end of 2002, so a long time ago.”
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes