Remaining in contention is Tarquini target
4 April 2013
WTCC veteran Gabriele Tarquini admits that he is targeting enough points to remain in touch with the top of the standings as the championship visits Marrakech this weekend.
After the rain of his native Italy last time out, Tarquini is looking forward to the expected sunshine of North Africa, but anticipates the action on track matching the ambient temperatures as round two gets underway.
"It will be a warm weekend, both literally and figuratively,” he smiled, “The temperature can reach 26°C but, with two long straights, fast and tricky chicanes, walls that encircle the racetrack and kerbs, it will be also be a 'hot' competition. And the kerbs on the streets of Marrakech cannot be compared with the kerb stones that we know from traditional circuits either. It's as if they are springboards that make the car jump for real."
After entering the final three races of the 2012 WTCC in 2012 – where Portugal's Tiago Monteiro delivered a fantastic third place in the final round – the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team embarked on its first full season at the Circuit of Monza last month, with Tarquini and Monteiro defying the inclement conditions to guide their Civic WTCCs over the line in fourth and fifth places respectively. Second time around, the Italian went one better, grabbing a hard-fought third as the 'newborn' Civic collected a second podium finish in only four rounds.
"With only one week between Monza and Marrakech, there's not a lot of time to improve the top speed of the Civic, but I've won in Marrakech before and know the track well,” Tarquini reflected, "I was impressed that the Civic handled so well on such a wet track, as we hadn't tested the car in conditions like this.
"Based on what we know now, our primary goal in round two is to score points, so we can stay in contention at the top of the championship. In the background the team will be developing the Civic further and, if we can make it work, then we'll be playing for the title.
But anyone who has ever seen Tarquini race before knows that the Honda Civic WTCC was in safe hands at Monza.
"Of course, my biggest advantage is my experience,” he confirmed, “They keep putting this experience to the test too, so I drive a lot of kilometres, stay in the rhythm and complete fast rounds.
“My experience was also useful when the rain fell in Monza. Visibility was practically non-existent, there was a lot of water on the track and catching up or moving past an opponent was very risky."
That experience comes from twelve seasons of international touring car racing, including 37 victories and one world title. With such a résumé, it's easy to see what attracted the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team to the 50-year old, but close ties to the Japanese-Italian squad of Alessandro Mariani and Maurizio Ambrogetti also played their part in sealing the deal.
"I feel that I'm back home, home sweet home!" Tarquini admits, "It's been twelve years since I last had the pleasure of working with JAS, but I still know everybody, I know their way of working and I don't need to ask myself who does what. We talk the same language and that's important for a good working relationship and to achieve the goals we have set ourselves.
"Finding a job in touring cars after F1 and becoming a British champion as an Italian went in parallel. That's how I drove for the first time for JAS in 1996 in the ITC. One year later, Honda offered me a seat in a Honda Accord in the BTCC and, afterwards, I competed in the German STW Cup."
The JAS relationship with Honda began in 1998 and, in 2001, Tarquini won nine races with the Honda Accord in the FIA European Super Touring Cup, the forerunner to the modern WTCC.
"It's all in the head, between the two ears," Tarquini chuckles, still on the experience theme, "The only contrast between the Tarquini when I started out to the Tarquini now is that there's no more pressure for me to win absolutely. I'm not saying that I don't push to extremes, but a victory more or less won't determine my career anymore.”