Touring car veteran Nicola Larini has announced that he will retire from WTCC racing after the 2009 championship's two last races in Macau on Sunday.
Explaining his decision, the 45-year old Italian commented that, having spent 20 seasons at the highest level in touring car racing, he intends to devote more time to his personal life and other interests. He will not quit racing, his lifelong passion, but wishes not be involved anymore in professional projects as demanding as the WTCC.
After starting his career with single-seaters, spending ten years in F1 and fulfilling the dream of any Italian racer to be a grand prix driver for Ferrari, Larini became a touring car legend, clinching the 1992 ISC and 1993 DTM titles and no fewer than 48 race wins in major international series.
“After so many years in motorsports, time has come for me to take a different approach to racing, to give back to my family and to develop my other interests," the veteran admitted, "I say goodbye to the WTCC today in Macau, but I will not quit racing altogether. I will continue racing, but want to be involved in projects not taking such a heavy toll on my personal life.
"Chevrolet and RML have been my WTCC home for the last five years, a spell of my career nearly as long as the ones I spent with Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. It has been a fantastic time that I will cherish forever in my memory. I wish to thank Chevrolet and RML for all the support received during these five years and wish them well for the future.”
A Chevrolet driver since the very launch of the WTCC programme in 2005, Larini has been a valuable asset for the team, contributing his talent and experience over the past five years and playing a significant role in developing the cars and building up a successful team. He has brought home 14 podium finishes, including his fantastic victory this year in Marrakech, as well as finding success in the Bologna Motor Show exhibition races in 2007-08.
“Nicola has been a cornerstone of our WTCC programme since its inception and I would like to thank him for his tremendous contribution," Chevrolet team boss Ray Mallock commented, "His team spirit, professionalism and gentlemanly behaviour mark him out as one of the best drivers I have worked with. It's sad he won't be part of the team next year and we will miss him.”
“When Chevrolet engaged in the WTCC programme, we looked at the best possible drivers for our cars and Nicola was clearly one of them," the brand's Eric Neve added, "We were honoured that he accepted the challenge and throughout these five years he has done an outstanding contribution to our team, with his abilities and his experience. In the first three years of our WTCC involvement, he has actually been the Chevrolet driver scoring most points. We will always be grateful to Nicola and he'll always be a friend of all of us at Chevrolet.”