One of the most experienced touring car drivers in activity, Gabriele Tarquini has been charged to drive the Honda Civic WTCC in the development tests.
What have been your first impressions after the first track test with the Civic at Vallelunga?
“The first day was more a shake-down than a proper test. The car is brand new, with very sophisticated electronics that so far we have mainly exploited to collect data and solve some normal youth issues. We are coping with a mix of different technologies and software that must work all together. On the second day we began to lap with consistency and worked on the chassis set up. The car is very sensitive and responded to all the changes we made. All in all I had a very good felling.”
Have you already fixed any goal in terms of kilometres to be made during the development tests?
“Our first goal was to make the engine work properly. This is the most important part and the most difficult to set up. At least in this first stage. It is a new challenge for Honda. They have used all the experience built up in the past with turbocharged engines, but is a brand new project and in the beginning you need to complete a number of functional tests and collect data to identify the areas you have to work on. The number of kilometres is important. We have not made a lot in this first test, but for sure our goal is to make many more.”
This programme marks Honda racing comeback with a factory team. Can you feel the pressure?
“Honda has a huge interest in this programme. It is the first works one since they left Formula One. This means that there are many engineers involved and everybody is under great pressure. Especially the persons who are in charge of the project. They have already done a huge amount of work in such a short time, but they still need to analyse all the data. There is a lot of work to do for developing the different areas of the engine. I am confident, because they have the knowledge to do it, and I saw that this first test was a great motivation for them.”
You have built up a long experience with WTCC engines. What do you think of the Honda one?
“It is too early to say, but I have huge confidence in their research and development department. They are putting in all the best technologies and I’m sure the engine will be very competitive. Honda has a strong reputation in racing and Honda fans have high expectations, but we don’t have to underestimate the task. It was proved in previous year that it’s not easy to join WTCC and be at the front straight away. You need to work a lot and dedicate the right resource. Coming with a works team is not a guarantee of success. It happened to SEAT and Chevrolet before. They both needed to work hard to climb to the top. I’m sure it will be
tough at the start, but when I see the determination and the challenging spirit of the team, I am convinced we will catch up quickly.”