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Gabriele Tarquini and Honda part ways for 2016

Honda will not renew Gabriele Tarquini’s World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) contract for the 2016 season, as the manufacturer refreshes its driver line-up for the first time since entering the championship.

Tarquini has competed for Honda since the 2013 season, having previously spent seven years racing for SEAT between 2006 and 2012 and one year racing for Alfa Romeo in 2005.

Tarquini took the 2009 WTCC title for SEAT, and in 11 years in the top level of touring car racing the Italian has scored an impressive 20 wins and 69 podiums, earning a reputation as being one of the best qualifiers in the paddock with 17 pole positions to his name.

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“I have many, many good memories of racing with Honda over the years, and we go back a long way,” said Tarquini, who even competed in the very first iteration of the WTCC in 1987. “I totally respect their decision for next year, and will only keep good memories of our seasons together.

“I am proud to have been a part of Honda’s return to World Touring Cars, and wish the team all the very best.”

Despite being in the latter stages of his career, at the age of 53, Tarquini is keen on exploring his options to keep racing in 2016.

“My main objectives remain to continue to race next year so I am currently exploring options, but in parallel I am continuing to talk to Honda about remaining involved in their future programmes outside of WTCC.”

Robert Watherston, Head of Motorsports for Honda Motor Europe, paid tribute to Tarquini, whose association with Honda dates back to 1997 when he raced an Accord for the marque in the British Touring Car Championship.

“We are incredibly grateful for everything Gabriele has given to Honda, both most recently in WTCC and throughout his career,” said Waterston. “He’s played a significant role in our touring car efforts over the years, not least in helping develop the current Honda Civic WTCC machine from which the Civic Type R road car is derived.

“For 2016 we have taken the decision to refresh our factory effort with the Castrol Honda WTCC team, which means that whilst we are naturally sad to lose Gabriele, we wave goodbye to him with fondness in our hearts and good memories of a great relationship.

“For Gabriele, we are now looking at other opportunities within the Honda Racing Family and I personally would like to wish him all the very best. For the Castrol Honda WTCC team, we will be able to announce more changes and our renewed driver line-up in due course as we reset our sights on next year’s championship.”

Hungarian Norbert Michelisz is strongly rumoured to be moving to the works squad for 2016, having raced independent Hondas for Zengő Motorsport for the past three seasons.

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