For an added kick in the teeth, his error led to a novel FIA penalty: a spot of social work! Tarquini has been ordered to attend a national racing event next year in Italy where he must conduct a briefing to the marshals “to explain to them the driver’s perspective on racing”.
Poor old Gabriele – although he was in good company in Sochi. His friend and long-time rival Yvan Muller was also in the wars and rear-ended leader Mikel Azcona, punting the Spaniard out and ruining both their races. To make it worse, Muller dropped his clanger at the end of a safety car period, at the penultimate corner and before the race had properly restarted… Yvan only picked up four penalty points for that effort, which to be fair would have been a meaningless punishment to Tarquini in his new state of retirement…
But will Gabriele really stop racing completely? It seems almost inconceivable that, following his 60th birthday next March, he won’t find something to keep him out of (or perhaps into) trouble. Racing is everything to this charismatic guy.
As he told us in a long interview back in the summer, conducted before he’d decided to stop but published in our January 2021 issue (on sale now), Tarquini doesn’t have anything to do beyond driving racing cars. Racing is all he’s known since he started karting as a kid in the 1970s and when we caught up with him at the Hungaroring at the end of August he genuinely appeared set to push on and race into pension territory.
“The secret of my long career is that I don’t have any interests outside of motor sport,” he said. “I don’t have any other business at all. Nothing even part-time. I concentrate on motor sport 100%. It is the only activity I know and for this reason it would be hard to survive without motor sport. So if I stop you’ll probably still see me around.”
So instead of cold turkey, how about the Goodwood Members’ Meeting on April 9/10 next year, Gabriele? You’d have a blast in a Capri, Camaro or Mini, and we’d all love to see you racing back in the UK. Memories of your British Touring Car Championship days, especially that 1994 season when you arrived and conquered with Alfa Corse and that amazing homologation-stretching 155, remain vivid nearly 30 years later. It’s a title you cherish too, as you told us in our interview. Come on over, Gabriele. You know Goodwood, you’ve done the Revival before. Time for a return, now, surely.
It’ll likely twinge a bit for Muller next year when he lines up for the first WTCR race of the 2022 season without his old compadre somewhere on the grid near him. At 52, the Frenchman is no spring chicken himself, but Muller has already tried retirement, didn’t like it and promptly came back. As Mark Hughes wrote recently regarding Fernando Alonso in F1, age is increasingly less of a confining issue for racing drivers, and that’s true at all levels.
What’s fascinating is that in sports car racing, which is about to explode once the LMH/LMDh era properly kicks in a year from now, there’s a whole bunch of top professionals knocking 40, and a few just passed that dreaded landmark, who are eager to land one of those coveted works drives with a returning manufacturer. Meanwhile, a generation in their 20s who have turned to endurance racing at a much younger age than they might have done even 10 years ago, offer teams a tempting option of fresh, burning talent still to be moulded into full maturity.