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How tin-top companions constructed a permanent relationship

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In an expert racing profession that spanned over 30 years earlier than his retirement at the age of 59 in 2021, Gabriele Tarquini has labored with extra team-mates than he would care to say. “I drove with plenty of improbable drivers, difficult and really sturdy opponents additionally in my staff and it’s all the time very tough to decide on one,” he tells Autosport.

The nice and good of touring automobile racing have pushed with the Italian throughout stints with Alfa Romeo, Honda, SEAT and Hyundai. Among the many stellar names are a number of champions in home, European and international competitions together with James Thompson, Tom Kristensen, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Augusto Farfus, Yvan Muller, Rickard Rydell and Norbert Michelisz.

However having raced collectively as team-mates in all however certainly one of 9 consecutive World Touring Automotive Championship seasons between 2007 and 2015, Tarquini’s alternative of Tiago Monteiro as his favorite ought to come as little shock. Throughout stints at SEAT (each as a manufacturing facility staff and with privateers) and Honda, with Tarquini recommending Monteiro to the Japanese producer for its 2012 entry to the WTCC, the 2 developed a powerful bond as they spent loads of time collectively.

“I loved very a lot to remain on monitor and out of doors the monitor with him,” says Tarquini. “Additionally he had household with young children. We spent holidays along with the household, we spent plenty of time particularly in between races to share the identical resort.”

The Portuguese arrived in Tarquini’s orbit contemporary from two blended seasons in Components 1 on the Jordan/Midland staff in 2007, in amongst a five-car SEAT superteam with Tarquini, Muller, Jordi Gene and Michel Jourdain Jr. Having dabbled in touring automobiles as early as 1987, Tarquini had made the identical swap from F1 after his Fondmetal staff collapsed in 1992 and so knew the issue Monteiro confronted in adapting to front-wheel drive. Tarquini remembers that Monteiro made a powerful first impression on a private word even when, within the automobile, “particularly the primary season he was struggling lots”.

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Archive: Why Tarquini’s passion for racing survived F1 “humiliation”

“Our relationship began very properly as a result of he launched himself not like a Components 1 star,” he remembers. “Particularly as a result of I used to be in F1 earlier than leaping in touring automobiles as properly, so we had kind of comparable expertise, I can perceive the issue he had leaping in touring automobiles. However he was rising lots after just a few races and seasons and he grew to become an excellent touring automobile driver.”

Picture by: Sutton Photos

Monteiro (second from left) had a tough adaption to tin-tops within the all-star SEAT lineup in 2007, however had an ally in Tarquini (second from proper)

Monteiro emerged as a race winner in 2008 and cracked the highest 10 in factors the next yr as Tarquini gained the world title. However for 2010 SEAT withdrew as a manufacturing facility staff and each drivers joined the privateer Sunred outfit (working underneath the SR-Sport banner), which put them firmly on the backfoot towards works opposition from Chevrolet and BMW.

Tarquini completed runner-up to Muller following the Frenchman’s swap from SEAT to Chevrolet for the 2010 WTCC and was once more the perfect Leon driver in 2011, albeit solely fifth within the standings. He remembers his relationship with Monteiro solely grew as their circumstances on monitor worsened, and the RML-prepared Chevy Cruze proved dominant in Muller’s palms.

“It’s true our relationship improved year-by-year,” Tarquini says. “We had an excellent time in SEAT Sport once we had been within the producer staff. A number of improbable drivers there preventing for the title, however particularly within the unhealthy moments as a result of after SEAT Sport stopped racing, we would have liked to outlive.

“They had been on the lookout for my recommendation to have a team-mate and my first title was Tiago Monteiro. They had been stunned as a result of at this second they need to come again very sturdy, they need the perfect in the marketplace and I advised Tiago” Gabriele Tarquini

“We went to a personal staff with not some huge cash, and it was preventing to outlive however I by no means had unhealthy moments outdoors of the monitor. We had these unhealthy seasons however had been all the time very sturdy in our relationship, it was very pleasant. This makes our relationship even stronger.”

Tarquini and Monteiro had been concurrently introduced as drivers for Honda’s new WTCC programme mid-way by way of a 2012 marketing campaign they’d begun with totally different SEAT privateer outfits, marking their first time aside since Monteiro’s arrival in tin-tops. By season’s finish, Monteiro had begun racing the brand new S2000 Honda, they usually had been reunited for 2013 as Honda delivered the producers’ title.

“I launched Tiago to Honda,” confirms Tarquini. “Earlier than the beginning season with Honda, they had been on the lookout for my recommendation to have a team-mate and my first title was Tiago Monteiro. They had been stunned as a result of at this second they need to come again very sturdy, they need the perfect in the marketplace and I advised Tiago as a result of he was quick and we had a really sturdy relationship.”

Nonetheless, the duo gained solely 4 races in 2013 and couldn’t forestall Muller – now driving an RML Cruze with out manufacturing facility backing – from romping to a fourth WTCC title. And issues didn’t enhance when the brand new TC1 guidelines arrived for 2014.

Monteiro grew in stature as a tin-top racer even after SEAT's withdrawal as a works team, and Tarquini's respect for him grew

Picture by: James Moy

Monteiro grew in stature as a tin-top racer even after SEAT’s withdrawal as a works staff, and Tarquini’s respect for him grew

Honda couldn’t match newcomer Citroen, as Jose Maria Lopez claimed three titles on the trot previous to the French model electing to pay attention its consideration on rallying for 2017. Tarquini reckons the reason for the deficit lay beneath the bonnet within the engine bay, fairly than within the JAS Motorsport-developed Civic WTCC chassis, because the 1.6 litre 4-cylinder turbo-charged HR412-E engine developed in Japan “was not aggressive in any respect”. However he and Monteiro crucially saved a unified entrance.

“We began preventing to have a greater engine, but it surely was inferior to we had been ready for,” remembers Tarquini. “It was a really unhealthy second, however once more out of the monitor we all the time loved and we all the time pushed collectively to resolve our issues.”

Tarquini was launched by Honda on the finish of 2015 and spent a yr with Lada earlier than teaming up with Hyundai to check its i30 N TCR for a race programme that will yield him the inaugural World Touring Automotive Cup title in 2018. Nonetheless, the Tarquini and Monteiro story wasn’t performed but.

The veteran was referred to as up by Honda in 2017 after Monteiro suffered a critical testing accident in Barcelona, curbing a season he’d been main on the time of the crash by 12 factors over Volvo’s Thed Bjork. The Swede took full benefit to beat Honda’s lead challenger Michelisz to the crown.

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Tarquini rejoined Honda for the Ningbo spherical and located the automobile remodeled, with the engine now “working very properly”, though he and Michelisz had been in the end thrown out of the outcomes for working non-compliant gas injectors. Changing Monteiro, who was pressured onto the sidelines for over a yr, was an obligation that Tarquini took severely.

“Honda referred to as me again as a result of I do know the automobile, I do know Tiago, they know that our relationship was very sturdy,” he says. “This was one thing additionally very sturdy in our relationship. After he had a while to recuperate, I can help him as properly throughout his restoration, but it surely was fairly lengthy.”

Since Tarquini stepped again from the cockpit, he has held down roles as a driver mentor and spokesperson for Hyundai Motorsport buyer racing, in addition to serving as BRC Racing’s staff supervisor. He stays in contact with Monteiro even a number of years after their lengthy spell as team-mates got here to an finish.

“We converse each week, we chat in WhatsApp, we’re in some WhatsApp teams all collectively and the connection remains to be good,” Tarquini says. “He manages plenty of drivers who’re superb and really younger so he’s busy in all probability extra now than when he was simply racing!”

Even after several years, Tarquini maintains a strong bond with Monteiro

Picture by: XPB Photos

Even after a number of years, Tarquini maintains a powerful bond with Monteiro

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