by Russell Atkins
After one of the hardest-fought campaigns in recent Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship memory, Fabrizio Giovanardi
has admitted the best successes are always those you have to really fight for.
The Italian triumphed at the end of a titanic scrap with SEAT's Jason Plato
who, he joked, won 'just' six races to his ten. The pair left all behind them quite literally trailing in their wheeltracks over the course of the season, with their intense duel going all the way down to the final meeting at Thruxton. Giovanardi headed into the showdown nine points adrift of his arch-rival, but by the time of race three they were separated by only a single marker in the Briton's favour.
“It feels great,” Giovanardi enthused, speaking to Crash.net Radio
at the Triple Eight headquarters near Silverstone. “It was a really good moment for me. It was a really tough championship and nobody outside of Vauxhall expected the swing [in the final round], but inside the team and inside myself we believed all the way to the end.
“Right from the beginning we had some great battles with Jason. It was always very hard competition, because Jason is a strong guy and he was playing on home soil. I'm a European, so it wasn't easy to come to England and beat an English driver. I don't think they (SEAT) really made any mistakes during the season; we were just faster.
“I never stopped believing. If you think about not being able to catch up, you won't win. You have to believe in yourself, your team and your car.”
That self-belief would prove pivotal to a challenge that after a disastrous round in the rain at Donington
Park in July – when he qualified a lowly 15th and could only notch up 13 points to Plato's 36 over the three encounters – saw Giovanardi languishing 25 points in arrears. Indeed, it could have been a good many more but for his legendary car control, as the Vauxhall ace famously recovered from sideways moments at Snetterton, Brands Hatch
that would have seen the majority of the opposition in the barriers.
“There are no secrets,” the 40-year-old stressed, when asked how he did it. “You simply have to be open-minded when you're driving and watch everywhere – the front, the back and the middle. You have to always be ready to react, and that comes from experience. You have to be prepared for contact when you're fighting for the championship, and if you're expecting something it's not a problem to control the car.”
As to the reception towards his success in his home country – where he has already clinched two tin-top titles in 1998 and 1999 – Giovanardi admitted his eighth touring car crown had helped in some small way to deflect the Italian sporting focus away from its two greatest passions – football and Ferrari.
“I don't care about where you win championships,” he underlined. “This was special because we didn't win it until right at the end. There was very high pressure on me, and when you win the championship after such a big effort you feel very proud. I've won a lot in the past, but sometimes I won too easily and I don't like winning easily. England is different, and in the past we've seen many European drivers coming here to try to win. It's great to put on the CV.