Q & A with Gabriele Tarquini

Q. How does it feel to be World Touring Car Champion?

Q & A with Gabriele Tarquini

Gabriele Tarquini: It was great to win - especially in Macau after a tough season. Our season is very tough and it is very long.

Q. You've won the British Touring Car Championship, and the European Touring Car Championship. What does it mean to be world champion?

GT: It is great. You never can compare the titles, because my last title [ETCC] was in 2003 and I won the BTCC in 1994. It was a long time ago. Now, especially, because I am 47, you are possessive more than when you are very young. So I always say, my first world title was very important for my career - and it was in karting. It gave me the opportunity to pass to F3, then F300. These gave me satisfaction but not an extra push on my career. It was a good push but not unbelievable. So for this reason I was thinking that I don't have a lot of pressure behind me, because this title doesn't change my life. My life stays the same.

Q. You crashed twice on Friday in Macau - does this triumph mean more to you after that?

GT: Yeah I started crashing! It was not the best way to approach the weekend. I had fantastic mechanics. They repaired the car the first time, so I was able to be competitive in qualifying scoring pole position in Q1 and then in Q2 something happened but it was not my fault. It was a very strange situation - and I had to go to the hospital. I thought there was nothing left to repair, but there was a long job for the mechanics and they made a great job. They worked all night and half a day, and it was fantastic because the car was competitive - very competitive.

Q. On the first morning you said the car's condition was better than you. What about now?

GT: Yeah, I don't feel any pain at the moment, but I was not at 100 per cent. I felt very stiff and I had a back problem, but I took something to reduce the pain - but it is sure I was not 100 per cent. With the adrenaline of the race, and the pressure, you don't feel anything in the car. When the lights go off, I didn't feel any physical problems.

Q. How did the first race go from your perspective?

GT: Yeah, the first race I took a really good start. I followed a little bit Jordi [Gene], but it was a fantastic start. Sometimes, the line between a fantastic start and a disastrous start is very, very small, and it is sure that I wanted to take an advantage. My target was to overtake Augusto, or at least stay very close to Augusto because I didn't need to pass him. I wanted to finish just behind him to be sure that one SEAT driver could be champion. But, the start was even better than my dream - and I was third with a team-mate in front of me. This gave me an extra chance to score the second place.

Q. What were your feelings before the second race?

GT: Yeah, the gap was six points and it can be a lot, but with the reverse grid it means almost nothing - as Yvan Muller was fourth on the grid and I was seventh with two BMWs behind me. And normally, on a standing start, they can overtake you easily. I made an average start, it was not fantastic, but I went through Lisboa on the inside line and it was the good choice because somebody crashed in front of me and I had no problem to pass through.

Q. Then you seemed so nervous before the aborted restart of the second race?

GT: We had a big, big problem with the engine. Since the first race, the engine had misfiring, especially through Mandarin and Lisboa. We don't know what happened exactly, and before the start I was not sure about the engine, if it would stay alive. The target was to stay alive, and this was my only problem with that race.

Q. What is your overall conclusion of this season?

GT: Yeah, it is a great conclusion. My target and my goal was to win the world title, because maybe it was my last chance as I am not very young anymore. For the future I don't know. I just want to have a holiday now, 20 or 30 days to think about my future, and I am sure it is the best way to have this rest with the title in my hands.

Q. Last season the points margin to Yvan Muller was quite large after you lost points not through speed but crashes. Did this have an effect on your approach to this season?

GT: Yes, sometimes. Last year we had a similar season. Last year Yvan started very strong, like me last year, and mid-season I had 14 points advantage and after Portugal something changed - I started to lose points and he started to gain a lot. It happened through mistakes, sure, and some bad luck .But that is what it is like. I came to the last few races after my crash in Imola with a small chance to be world champion. So, in the last race, Yvan had 14 points advantage and you never know in Macau.

I was really pushing a lot, maybe too much, but it was only a small chance to be champion. This year was different. Two points, so we played for the title, fought for the title, in the final rounds.

Q. Did you fear that your bad luck at Macau had returned when you had those crashes on Friday?

GT: Yes. When I started crashing, I was not really happy. In free practice it was my mistake, and in qualifying I don't know if you saw it - but it was not possible to do anything. I went through a complete fog, it was like driving with your eyes closed, in fourth gear speed at full throttle, and Yvan's car was straight across the track. I had five metres to react, and brake as much as possible, but there was nothing I could do to avoid the accident. Even for Alain [Menu], it was practically impossible to avoid the accident.

After that accident, when I saw the car, I immediately thought that the championship was over. But the guys, when I came out of the hospital, they said don't worry, the crash is big but the damage is less than in the morning. I was really surprised and I asked them if they were sure about it. They said: 'yeah, no problem, we will rebuild the car like new.' And to be honest, I was really surprised with the car in the warm-up because it was fantastic.

Q. Has this success changed your feelings about Macau?

GT: I never had a really good weekend in Macau. This is my first good weekend in Macau, so it is very good. I have been four times in the past to the hospital, but this time it was not on Sunday!

Q. Do you feel that you want to continue in the WTCC?

GT: I hope so. I don't want to stop. I want to just rest now, because after a great win you need something to repair the pressure. It was a big pressure this weekend, especially after Japan which was not very good for me. Yvan recovered a lot of points, so coming here in Macau we know it is a very difficult and tricky track, and with two points it was nothing. It was even one point, because Yvan had one more victory than me, so the real difference was just one point.

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