The much-loved tin-top superstar bowing out at 59
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The much-loved tin-top superstar bowing out at 59

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OPINION: It's not often that a driver achieves widespread affection for their personality, as well as their on-track performances. One such individual is Gabriele Tarquini, who will soon bring the curtain down on a remarkable career that has yielded touring car titles on the European and global stage - and, famously, in Britain too

The early-season European Formula 2 rounds at Silverstone and Thruxton always gave British enthusiasts their tantalising first view of talents we’d often only read about in the back pages of Autosport magazine through their exploits in foreign F3 races.

When F2 was dropped for 1985 and replaced by Formula 3000, the field that assembled for the very first race at Silverstone included John Nielsen and Claudio Langes (at least we’d seen them in European F3, and Nielsen in Super Vee too) and reigning Italian champion Alessandro Santin. How would they get on? Nielsen did well, of course, but the emerging star of that weekend was a curly haired 23-year-old Italian who no one had ever heard of.

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Why the BTCC's ballast increase couldn't stop champion Sutton

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