Honda team drops Gabriele Tarquini

Honda plans new-look WTCC line-up

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By Olivier Ferret

19 December 2015 - 10:44
Honda team drops Gabriele Tarquini

The Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team will feature a tweaked driver line-up for 2016 following confirmation that Gabriele Tarquini’s contract to race a factory Honda Civic in the WTCC will not be renewed.

Tarquini’s association with Honda began in 1997. Although he switched allegiance to Alfa Romeo after five years, he was back with the Japanese make for the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship season when he claimed two wins as Honda secured the manufacturers’ crown. He was victorious again in 2014 but was unable to add to his tally of 20 triumphs during 2015.

Although he finished the season as the highest-placed Honda driver, he will no longer race for the JAS Motorsport-run outfit in the WTCC. However, the 53-year-old former WTCC champion could still have a role within the Honda family (see separate story).

“For 2016 we have taken the decision to refresh our factory effort with the Castrol Honda WTCC team, which means that whilst we are naturally sad to lose Gabriele, we wave goodbye to him with fondness in our hearts and good memories of a great relationship,” said Robert Watherston, Head of Motorsports, Honda Motor Europe. “For the Castrol Honda WTCC team, we will be able to announce more changes and our renewed driver line-up in due course as we reset our sights on next year’s championship.”

Honda boss pays tribute to WTCC stalwart Tarquini

Honda Motor Europe’s Head of Motorsports has paid tribute to Gabriele Tarquini, whose three-year deal to race for the make’s factory team in the FIA World Touring Car Championship has expired.

Robert Watherston expressed his gratitude to the 2009 WTCC champion, highlighting the “significant role” ex-Formula One driver Tarquini had played.

“We are incredibly grateful for everything Gabriele has given to Honda, both most recently in WTCC and throughout his career,” said Watherston. “He’s played a significant role in our touring car efforts over the years, not least in helping develop the current Honda Civic WTCC machine from which the Civic Type R road car is derived.”

Although Tarquini will no longer race for Honda in the WTCC, Watherston revealed his association with the Japanese manufacturer could continue.

“For Gabriele, we are now looking at other opportunities within the Honda Racing Family and I personally would like to wish him all the very best.”

Tarquini vows to race on in the WTCC

Gabriele Tarquini wants to race on in the FIA World Touring Car Championship in 2016 even though his long-term deal to drive for the works Honda squad has come to an end.

Tarquini, 53, was on the grid when the WTCC was revived in 2005 and claimed the coveted title four years later driving for SEAT. He placed fifth in the 2015 standings with 197 points following podiums in Russia, Portugal and Japan. He scored his final podium of the year in China where he narrowly missed out on victory.

“My main objectives remain to continue to race next year so I am currently exploring options, but in parallel I am continuing to talk to Honda about remaining involved in their future programmes outside of WTCC,” he said.

“I have many, many good memories of racing with Honda over the years, and we go back a long way. I totally respect their decision for next year, and will only keep good memories of our seasons together. I am proud to have been a part of Honda’s return to World Touring Cars, and wish the team all the very best.”

Tarquini is one of the WTCC’s most successful drivers. He’s fifth on the all-time list of winners with 20 victories and only Yvan Muller has claimed more pole positions than he. His tally of 22 fastest laps is the third best in the WTCC.”

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