Gabriele Tarquini said he was pleased with a podium finish from his first World Touring Car Championship event with Honda, although he admitted there is work still to do with the new Civic.
The former SEAT driver had just missed out on a podium result in race one after taking the flag in fourth place and then led race two in the early stages before losing position to a charging Yvan Muller.
Having slipped back to third spot behind the similar Chevrolet of Michel Nykjaer, Tarquini then had to use all of his experience to see off the challenge of Marc Basseng and he admitted to being delighted with the result – even though he conceded that the Castrol-backed team needs to find more speed to challenge the Chevrolet drivers.
“My target before the weekend was to finish on the podium, but qualifying was a little bit tougher than I expected,” he said. “I was quite lucky in the conditions – I only had my first lap in the wet in the warm-up! We know we must improve; the Chevrolet is the car to beat and we knew before this weekend that we must work very hard to close the gap and to win the first race as soon as possible. Yvan's pace in the first race was quite fast and we knew it would be tough to keep the places when the cars around you are faster.
“As we are today some tracks will suit us more than others but for sure we have a lot of development opportunities to come which can see us gaining in performance all the time. We will go to Marrakech for a new challenge. Every year that track seems to have something different, changed kerbs, changed surfaces in paces so it is always difficult but I think the Honda will be good there.”
Team-mate Tiago Monteiro in the sister car secured a brace of top eight finishes and while happy with his results after qualifying down in 14th spot, he too conceded that the team had to work hard to improve the Civic during the upcoming races.
“Given the circumstances, we knew that the task would be difficult, but I managed to make up lost ground in qualifying to reach the finish in fifth and eighth positions,” he said. “These two results are important and allow us to score valuable points from the opening round of the championship. It is a happy ending to a weekend that got off to such a difficult start.
“We know that we must work hard because our opponents are very strong. The chassis of the Honda Civic is pretty good but we need to double our efforts and make a more powerful engine. The importance of this first round was to determine where we stand after winter testing so we could know which area to focus on. Now we know what they are.”