Gabriele Tarquini is an Italian veteran racing driver who currently competes with Hyundai in the WTCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup. During his long career, he has competed in various racing series, including Formula One World Championship. He participated in 79 F1 Grand Prix events between 1987 and 1995, starting in 38 races.
However, Tarquini reached a peak in touring car racing, winning three championship titles in British Touring Car Championship (1994), European Touring Car Championship (2003) and World Touring Car Championship (2009). He was a regular competitor in the WTCC from 2005 to 2017, moving to WTCR in 2018 after a merger of WTCC and TCR International Series.
Formula 1 debut in 1987 with Osella
Gabriele Tarquini was born on March 2, 1962, in a coastal town Giulianova, in the province of Teramo, Italy. As many professional drivers, the Italian started his career in karting in 1976.
Nine years later, he entered Formula 3000, spending three seasons driving for many small teams. His best result was the second place at Imola in 1987. The same year, Tarquini made the debut in Formula 1, driving Osella Squadra Corse at San Marino Grand Prix.
1988 Formula One season with Coloni
In 1988, he joined Coloni team, but despite being considerably fast, he mainly failed to qualify. His driving style was aggressive, he was fast enough but relatively inconsistent. Sometimes he was nowhere near to qualify, but sometimes he was good enough to be near the top. That was the case at the Canadian Grand Prix where he ended up being the 8th, which was the best result in the history of Coloni team.
Taking his one and only F1 point at 1989 Mexican Grand Prix
In 1989 he was supposed to drive for the FIRST team but unfortunately, the car failed the crash test leaving the unlucky driver without a ride. As a result, he ended up driving for the AGS team. Tarquini had a few good performances during the first half of the season with the highlight being the 6th place in the Mexican Grand Prix. He scored one championship point, his only point in F1 career. However, in the second part of the 1989 season, his car was not competitive enough on the fast tracks and he kept failing to qualify for the races.
Ending an F1 career in 1992, one start with Tyrrell in 1995
He stayed with the AGS team for another three years (the team was later renamed into Fondmetal due to the change of the owner), but the results were still extremely poor. He left Formula One at the end of 1992.
Three years later, Tarquini returned to Formula 1 in one race with Tyrrel Yamaha team. His last race in Formula 1 was the 1995 European Grand Prix at Nurburgring in which he finished 14th.
British and European touring car champion with Alfa Romeo
In 1994, Tarquini switched to touring cars racing, making a debut in the British Touring Cars Championship. The start was perfect as he won the title in his first attempt, driving an Alfa Romeo 155 TS.
Throughout the second half of the 1990s, he also competed in the Italian Touring Cars Championship, Belgian Procar series and German STW Cup, before moving to European Touring Car Championship, winning it for Alfa Romeo in 2003.
Regular WTCC competitor since 2005
Tarquini is definitely best known as a World Touring Cars Championship long servant. He made the WTCC debut in the series in 2005 with Alfa Romeo, finishing the 7th at the end of the season. Next year, he drove for SEAT, scoring five wins in three years. In 2008, he came close to winning the WTCC title but had to settle for the 2nd place, 26 points behind Yvan Muller.
Video - Gabriele Tarquini, Alfa 156
Winning the 2009 WTCC title with Seat
In 2009, he finally claimed championship laurels, becoming the FIA WTCC champion in the final race in Macau at the wheel of Seat Leon TDI. It was a close battle with Muller, but the Italian was just a bit better, taking the title with four points in front of the Frenchman. Tarquini won three races that year and had nine more podium finishes.
Racing with Seat until 2012
SEAT decided to withdraw from the WTCC in 2010 but remained as a support to semi-works team called Sunred. Again, it was a very close season in which Gabriele Tarquini clinched five wins, but that was not enough to defend his WTCC crown, as Yvan Muller regained the title, even despite scoring only three victories, but the Frenchman was in more consistent form, taking much more podium finishes than the Italian driver who finished as a runner-up.
In 2011 and 2012, which were his final WTCC years of driving the SEAT Leon, the Italian was not so successful. He managed to score only one victory in each season, finishing fifth and fourth respectively.
Three years with Honda
In 2013, he signed a contract with the ambitious Honda WTCC team. Already a veteran driver, the Italian proved he is still able to produce good results. He won three races and had five podium finishes, but again, that was not enough to beat his old rival. Yvan Muller won the title while Tarquini again was the championship runner-up.
In 2014, Tarquini continued his winning streak with at least one race victory in every WTCC season, but at the end of the season, he was only sixth overall. His winning streak stopped in 2015, which was quite a poor season for the Italian racer. He was often accused of being too aggressive and almost representing a danger on the track. Tarquini caused several accidents during 2015 WTCC season and Honda decided not to retain his services for 2016.
One season with Lada Sport Rosneft
It looked like Tarquini is set for retirement, but LADA Sport Rosneft team offered him a one-year contract, so the experienced driver will stay in WTCC in 2016, ready to help Russian side to be more competitive than it was in previous years.
Surprisingly, Russian manufacturer decided to withdraw from the WTCC at the end of 2016, so the experienced Italian was left without a full-time drive for the following season.
Developing Hyundai i30 race car in 2017, racing with it in 2018
However, such an experienced racer quickly found a new job, joining Hyundai Motorsport's touring car programme. During 2017, he participated in a development of a Hyundai i30 N TCR race car, trying a car in the last two rounds of the TCR International Series and in the TCR Europe trophy, winning two races. Tarquini was also invited to drive for Honda in Chinese WTCC round as a replacement for injured Tiago Monteiro.
For the 2018 season, Tarquini has been chosen to drive Hyundai i30 N TCR for BRC Racing Team in the WTCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup.