Macau Grand Prix 2018: Gabriele Tarquini wins World Touring Car Cup aged 56 for second title
- Italian veteran does just enough to hold off Yvan Muller for title
- Esteban Guerrieri claims Race Three as Rob Huff is denied 10th win
Italian legend Gabriele Tarquini won his second world title at the age of 56 after a nail-biting finish to the inaugural World Touring Car Cup at the Macau Grand Prix.
Disaster struck in Sunday’s Race Two at the Guia Circuit when BRC Racing’s Tarquini crashed out at Lisboa, with fellow veteran Yvan Muller finishing third to keep the title race alive.
Tarquini had to start 14th on the grid for both races after a mistake in qualifying on Saturday, but managed to do enough in Race Three by finishing 10th to seal the title – formerly the World Touring Car Championship – with 305 points from Muller’s 287, after the Frenchman finished fourth in Race Three.
The triumph capped a remarkable nine-year journey having contemplated stopping driving after winning his first world title in 2009.
“It’s great, I remember the memory nine years ago when I was walking to this press conference with the title, I was thinking to stop racing because what do you want to achieve more than the world title?” Tarquini said.
“It’s probably the best time to stop with the world title in hand, but walking here I was just thinking why stop, I want to race. I have the adrenaline, I’m not very slow, I can compete again.
“I decide to restart from a private team in 2010, 2011, 2012, then back with Honda. It was a great decision I didn’t stop.
“I also must thank Hyundai for choosing me in the beginning, my teammates, all the guys working very hard the mechanics.
“I want to thank Yvan for making it so hard in the season, he was my toughest opponent. We fight in 2008, 2009. I’m really pleased he came back to race.
“I remember what I suggested to him. He said in  he wanted to stop. I said why, you are so young. Now I’m very happy he’s back.”
The final round of the World Touring Car Cup was won by Esteban Guerrieri, who managed to hold off Rob Huff in Race Three.
“I’m not the man today, he’s the man,” Guerrieri said, motioning to Tarquini beside him at the press conference. “Because he was the man for the whole year.
“I’m very pleased for this guy, you are awesome. I learned a lot from him. we’ll have a nice battle again next year.”
It was the Argentine 33-year-old’s second win of the weekend, having also claimed victory in Race One on Saturday, and he finished third in the drivers’ championship.
“Everybody here did a good job. It was a fantastic season,” Guerrieri added. “I really enjoyed it, a lot of sparks with everybody here as well, but in the end we know how it is, we know we have to race sometimes too much, this is racing.
“We have to learn always. I’m happy to finish the season this way with two wins in Macau, I cannot ask for more. It was a great year, also finishing third it was fantastic.
“Friday I was a bit disappointed not to have pole but in the end if I had known I would win today, I would be very happy.”
Tarquini was asked if he could walk away from racing, having finally won the title again.
“I don’t know yet. I want to cool down,” he said. “I’m 56, I’m still quite fast, probably a little bit more clever than when I was younger.
“After winning the world title again – it’s my third one, because I won one in karting – I don’t think I want to stop. If Hyundai will be pleased to let me continue probably I will continue.”
For four-time champion Muller, 49, it was ultimately disappointment in the driver’s championship but his MRacing-YMR team clinched the team championship.
“I want to say thank you for all my team, I’m very proud of what we achieved,” Muller said. “I said to my boys I would easily give one of my titles to be a team champion so thanks for that to all the boys.” “About my future, I can’t tell you. I retired in 2016 but apparently I’m still fast and Gabriele doesn’t want me to retire,” he added, smiling.
The “King of Macau” Rob Huff had to make do with second place in Race Three despite starting on pole for both races on Sunday, though he did set the fastest lap of the weekend.
“It’s what I love about this championship, a lot of people are asking if I’m disappointed a little bit, but I’ve had nine wins here so to share them around is not a problem,” he said.
“We’ve had a great weekend. Congratulations to Gabriele again. I tried everything I could. We didn’t make the best start [in Race Three], Esteban got ahead.
“I did well to fight everyone off. As soon as we get on the mountain I can push Esteban but he didn’t quite make enough of a mistake for me.
“It was a great race, Esteban deserved to win. I kept as much pressure on him as possible. But to finish this weekend with a second and a third [in Race One], and a win in Japan, it’s a great finish to the season. It’s been amazing what we’ve achieved.”
Norbert Michelisz had been in the title mix until crashing out in Race Two, though managed to help his teammate Tarquini to the title by holding off Muller and finishing third in Race Three.
“It’s been one of most difficult days in my career, there was a huge amount of pressure on us,” he said. “I really wanted to win the championship, both the teams and drivers, and I wanted to be on the grid. “The car was in pieces [after Race Two] but we managed to put it together and finish Race Three. It’s not the most important thing that I finished third today but that Gabriele won the championship.
“I saw he was working so hard for it all year. He just deserved it. To be on a level like he is, it’s just amazing. You have some moments were you think I have him, but he comes back so strong.
“I’m really happy, if it’s not me then it’s Gabriele who has to win the championship. I’m really looking forward to next season.”