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Gabriele Tarquini admits ‘we really have to improve now’

Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini admits that he and his Castrol Honda World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) team ‘really have to improve now’ as the series heads to Beijing this weekend for the start of the Asian leg of the season.

Tarquini and Honda have yet to take a win in the series, and the Italian has only scored a best finish of second on two occasions, with his Portuguese team-mate Tiago Monteiro also having finished second once.

“We really have to improve now,” admits the 52-year-old Italian. “Certain tracks may offer us a helping hand, such as the short Goldenport Park Circuit in Beijing. However, based on what we know of the Shanghai track, races there will be much more difficult.

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“That’s why I will try out different elements that we’re working on at different times; some parts for instance might not be fully efficient or effective in the short term, but may bear fruit in the long term. After all, the 2015 season is not that far away.”

Indeed the team have already been making preparations for the 2015 season, having recently tested at the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit in anticipation of the series’ first visit to the German circuit next year.

JAS Motorsport Managing Director Alessandro Mariani admits that whilst the team have been busy since the previous event two months ago in Argentina, not everything can be improved quickly.

“The rules allow us to use additional homologations – the so-called jokers – to improve certain elements of the car, but it is impossible to correct everything in one stroke of the pen,” explains Mariani. “So before we apply one particular joker and ensure we’re making the right choice, we have to test several options.

“As everybody knows, races in the WTCC follow each other at an infernal pace, so these test sessions were our first opportunity to draw any conclusions on any of them. Chassis-wise we worked on several options during the three days, both with the remaining races and next season in our minds. It is now up to us to convert all the data into actual solutions and close the gap with the competition.”

Uniquely for the WTCC’s first event in Beijing this weekend, qualifying will take place early on Sunday morning – meaning that all of the decisive sessions will take place on the same day for the first time.

Lead Honda driver Tiago Monteiro, currently fourth in the championship thanks to just one retirement and four podium finishes, believes that the schedule will make little difference to the driver’s approach to the event.

“This one-day event will become one big shoot-out”, said Monteiro. “For a driver it makes little or no difference whether there is a day between qualifying and the races or not. There is of course less time for analysis and debriefing.

“I always prefer to have a good night’s rest to let things sink in a bit, but on the other hand you have to stay focussed and there are a lot less distractions if you go straight into a race.

“The only people who will have a really tough time are the mechanics. If something goes wrong in qualifying and the car needs to be fixed, well, they will have to hurry!”

The first testing session takes place on Saturday 4 October at 08:10 (China time zone, 02:10 CEST, 01:10 BST).

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