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An Interview with Honda's World Touring Car Drivers

An Interview with Honda's World Touring Car Drivers

21 March 2014

2014 Castrol Honda WTCC Drivers Gabriele Tarquini & Tiago Monteiro

 

On April 13th this year Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro will start their 10th and 8th respective seasons in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. With one World Title (Tarquini in 2009) and a total of 24 victories, the two Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team drivers have enough knowledge and experience at their disposal to be among the frontrunners in this year’s Championship. Add the fact that Honda also won the Manufacturer’s Title in the FIA WTCC in 2013 and it’s clear that Tarquini-Monteiro will be a strong duo at the wheel of the Civic WTCC 2014.

 

Gabriele and Tiago. What are the differences between the Civic WTCC  2014 and last year’s car?

Gabriele Tarquini: “The new rules mean that the whole concept had to be changed radically and in my opinion this year’s Civic looks a lot better. It has become a nice racing car, that’s a lot more powerful and quicker. The development of the engine-chassis combination and the fine-tuning of the new aero package should not be underestimated either. As a driver I can only applaud such an evolution, because it is a lot of fun to drive this kind of racing car. I think I can safely say that I’ve never driven such a strong a front-wheel drive car before! The only time that I was at the wheel of a car that came close was in 2010 with a Civic in the ”200 Km de Buenos Aires” in the Argentinean TC 2000 Championship.”

Tiago Monteiro: “It is difficult to compare the two cars. After all, it is very rare that a front-wheel drive car produces such power. A car with over 380 bhp is quite something and then there is the lower weight, the new aerodynamics and the fact that we brake a whole lot later now. It is a completely different kind of driving experience. The concept of the new Civic reminds me of a small GT car, and that is the only reference I have in driving such a car.”

 

What do you expect from the first races with the new FIA WTCC cars?

GT: “Up until now we’ve only completed a few tests with the new Civic, so there hasn’t been a direct confrontation in a race yet. However, I’m very curious to experience the behaviour of the cars when racing together. There is a lot of nudging in the WTCC and we will have to see how the new front spoiler copes with that. If you are driving right behind another car and you damage the splitter, you have to head for the pit lane - even if the contact was only a minor one. So we will have to see how that evolves.”

TM: “The concept of the new Civic WTCC is great, but we still have a lot to do. However, I am fully confident that our fans will see us among the frontrunners this season. There is a lot of potential in the car and it will be up to us not to make any unnecessary mistakes. Especially during the first races it is important to be at the finish, so we can score crucial points.”

 

Do you consider Tiago/Gabriele as an adversary?

GT: “We know each other really well and have worked together in the same team for a couple of years now. Our relationship is a stable one, both on and off the track. Tiago is not the first driver I want to beat, I consider the other drivers to be our main competition! If one of us can have a shot at the title, the other will gladly help and let him pass. That is what I would do, and I am sure Tiago would do the same. This good cooperation should be an advantage in the confrontation with the other drivers and teams.”

TM: “Of course Gabriele is an adversary! (smiles) He is a good friend of mine and my partner within the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, but of course on the track I want to beat him! He has a lot of experience and is still very quick, so I imagine he wants to become champion again. But that is also my goal for this season! However, we are both clever enough not to behave stupidly and will always keep the team’s interests in mind.”

 

Do you have a favourite track on the FIA WTCC calendar?

GT: “I am very much looking forward to driving in Spa again. In my opinion it is still the most beautiful track in the world. I have raced a lot there over the years and quite often obtained some good results. There was a time that I considered Suzuka to be my favourite track too; it has a lot of similarities with Spa, with plenty of quick and different corners.”

TM: “Just like Gabriele I have a penchant for Spa! From the moment I got into racing I was crazy about ‘the most beautiful track in the world’. But my favourite track is Macao. A street race, yes, but also a track where high speeds can be reached. And I always seem to get a good result there…”

 

What is your most beautiful victory until now?

GT: “I haven’t conquered that one yet! Even though I won nine races in the ETCC for Honda and two last year in the FIA WTCC, I haven’t yet been able to give Honda the drivers’ title in a Championship! That will be my personal goal for the upcoming season: winning the FIA WTCC title at the wheel of the Civic!”

TM: “Last year in Shanghai I won my first race for Honda and that gave me a lot of satisfaction. However, I consider my third place in Macao in 2012 to be my most beautiful victory! Let me explain: that year Honda made its debut during the last three races of the WTCC. In Shanghai and Suzuka things didn’t go that well, but nobody hung their heads and continued to work hard. For the whole Honda and J.A.S. Motorsport team that third place was a very nice reward. I remember that some of the Honda people were in tears afterwards! So yes, that third place in Macao was my most beautiful victory!”

 

Winning is always the best feeling, but what was your best race of 2013?

GT: “Without a doubt Slovakia Ring, when the three Civics – myself, Tiago and Norbert - made it onto the rostrum! We didn’t have a great start of the season in Monza and Marrakech, but we managed to turn things around and that was our way to thank Honda and the whole team for their continued efforts. It gave us a real boost to further increase our efforts.”

TM: “Of course the Slovakia result was a great one for Honda. For me personally the second places in Sonoma and – yes, again – Macao, behind Müller, spring to mind.”

 

You were both active in Formula 1. What’s your fondest memory?

GT: “My season with the French AGS team in 1989. Especially since that year I had no options in F1 at first. The team from Gonfaron only asked me to drive for them at the second race, as a substitute for the unfortunate Philippe Streiff. AGS was a small team, which was run on a tight budget, but lots of efforts were made, and the people were very motivated. We managed to get some great results. In Monaco for example, I was in 4th position, before the car broke down. In Mexico I managed to cross the line in sixth.”

TM: “That one is easy: my third place with the Jordan at the United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis in 2005! That will always remain an incredible memory. I agree, I was helped by the circumstances, but during the race there was no indication that I would join Schumacher and Barrichello on the podium. For most of the time I was in 4th or 5th position.”

 

Do you remember the moment when your fascination for racing started?

GT: “No one in my family had an interest in motorsports. My father had a business in lubricants and one day the company he worked for made him an offer to become the owner of a service station. My father agreed, but what did my older brother and I discover when we first visited the service station? There was a karting track right behind it! After school we spent many hours on the track and that is where I drove my first laps with a kart. And the rest, as they say, is history, starting with a win in the Italian and European Karting Championships in 1983.”

TM: “My father also raced, but I never had the ambition to make it on my own and he didn’t have the spare time to help me either. It was only during my studies at a hotel school in Switzerland - that was my passion at the time - that I had the opportunity to do a test drive on a circuit. I liked it a lot and was invited in ’97 to take part in the French Porsche Cup and finished 6th.”

 

You both have children. Will there be a Tarquini Junior or a Monteiro Junior racing soon?

GT: “I own a couple of karting tracks myself now, and sometimes I ask Giulia and Matteo to accompany me, in the hope that they will ask to drive themselves...Only to discover they are not interested at all, so I can only conclude that they’re not bitten by the same virus as their Dad!” (smiles)

TM: “I managed to become a professional driver and make a living out of it, but there are plenty of examples of drivers who were not able to do the same. Motor racing can be a very frustrating and difficult affair, and that is why I will certainly try not to encourage them too much. My son Noah is only four and he loves to see me in action, but for the moment that is all he is interested in.”

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