As they say, champions show why they are champions when it matters. Gabriele Tarquini did just that last weekend at Macau. A huge crash, a visit to the hospital, a new engine and starting middle of the pack, Tarquini’s odds were against him. He prevailed in the end.
Gabriele Tarquini is the most veteran of the drivers on the WTCC grid. And not only does he like it but boasts about it to his rivals. At the age of 47 but with the enthusiasm and drive of a beginner, Gabriele Tarquini becomes the seventh Italian world champion in history eighteen years after Teo Fabi and beforehand Nino Farina, Alberto Ascari, Mauro Baldi, Roberto Ravaglia and Massimo Biasion. He has also marked a spectacular record, since at his 47 years of age, he is the most veteran champion in motor sports history, passing even Juan Manuel Fangio.
A very fast, intuitive driver, capable of turning any racing moment to his advantage and able to get the most out of his car at all times, Gabriele has the knack of getting on extremely well with anyone. His empathy and cordiality with all those around him enable him to fit perfectly into any team situation. He came to the SEAT family in 2006 after forging a tremendous reputation for himself as a driver in prestige events like the British, German and of course the Italian Touring Car Championships. Prior to this he had been a Formula 1 driver for several years, but never managed to find a car equal to his driving skills.
In a SEAT León WTCC in his first season he got his first win at Istanbul, by overtaking his teammate Peter Terting on the very last bend. He took fifth position overall in the championship.
His second win with SEAT came at 2007 at Zandvoort in the purest Tarquini style, and it was also the first time that Gabriele showed the team just how much he could contribute. Temperatures were lower than expected, and Gabriele knew that his tyres would not wear down as rapidly; so he realised that all he had to do was fend off attacks from his rivals over the first few laps for them to wear down their tyres, leaving him free from attack in the second half of the race.
And he has been consistent in this approach throughout his career, showing immense skill in turning any race opportunity – unseen at the right moment by his rivals – to his advantage. His intuition enables him to exploit the weaknesses of his adversaries while squeezing the last drop out of his own resources. His engineers always highlight his capacity to conjure up opportunities where none existed by taking his tyres right up to their useful limits.
In 2008 he was WTCC runner-up to teammate Yvan Muller, having notched up wins in such diverse races as Curitiba, Brno and Monza. He also played a major role in winning the WTCC Manufacturers’ title for SEAT. This season his crowning achievement is the title of World Champion, the result of wins in Curitiba, Oporto and Imola, plus five pole positions (three of them in a row) – a record for the season.
He is a meticulous driver with an eye for detail. His inseparable track engineer, Giancarlo Bruno, relates of him that on one occasion after clocking up a bad qualifying time, he came into boxes annoyed because the radio was not working properly. In spite of being under time pressure, he had it repaired, unhappy that something was not in good working order. With the radio now fixed, he went back onto the track and …. got pole position !!
He is a great football fan and follower of Milan. When his team has a match, he does everything in his power to get to see it, wherever in the world he happens to be.
That said, his priorities have changed somewhat lately, and now top of the list are 4-year-old Gulia and 3-year-old Matteo, his children with wife Beatrice, and whose names he carries with him in every race printed on his helmet.
Date and place of birth: 2.3.1962, Giulianova, Terano (Italy)
- 2009: World Touring Car Champion (3 wins – Curitiba, Oporto and Imola. SEAT León TDI)
- 2008: Runner-up, WTCC (3 wins – Curitiba, Brno and Monza. SEAT León TDI WTCC)
- 2007: 8th, WTCC (1 win – Zandvoort)
- 2006: 5th, WTCC (1 win – Istanbul. SEAT León WTCC)
- 2005: 7th, WTCC
- 2004: 3rd, ETCC
- 2003: 1st, ETCC
- 2002: ETCC
- 2001: 3rd, ESTCC
- 2000: 6th, BTCC
- 1996: Intercontinental Touring Car Championship
- 1995: BTCC and German DTM
- 1994: Champion, BTCC
- 1993: 3rd, ITCC
- 1987-1992: Formula 1 World Championship
- 1985: 5th, European F3 Championship
- 1975-1984: Go-karting
- SEAT Sport