Gabriele Tarquini says he was 'afraid' his professional racing career was over after losing his place at the factory Honda WTCC squad in the winter but is now relishing a fresh challenge with Russian manufacturer Lada Sport Rosneft.

The 53-year-old Italian is gearing up for his 12th consecutive campaign in WTCC after debuting with Alfa Romeo Racing Team in 2005 and after switching to SEAT he claimed the world title in 2009. After three seasons with the factory Honda squad Tarquini was informed his contract was not being renewed for 2016 so he began a search for a new race seat and landed at Lada alongside Hugo Valente and Nick Catsburg.

Tarquini has admitted he feared his WTCC career was over after being dropped by Honda, who have taken on former Lada driver Rob Huff, but was able to tie up a deal with the Russian squad earlier in the winter.

"Yes I was afraid [the WTCC was over for me]," Tarquini said to fiawtcc.com. "My first target was to stay in the WTCC because it was my home for a long time and it's very difficult to stay away. Fortunately, LADA wanted me very strong so when [the deal] was confirmed I was really pleased to be able to continue with WTCC because there was a limited time to speak to another manufacturer."

The 53-year-old is relishing the fresh start by explaining it makes him feel young again as he heads into the 2016 WTCC season with renewed motivation.

"Now everything is new, the car, the engine, the people, the team-mates and I feel a little bit younger than the last few years," he explained. "You need to modify your attitude and your style of working and this keeps you young. It gives me a new motivation."

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