Gabriele Tarquini has called LADA’s departure from the World Touring Car Championship ‘a shame’, insisting that the Russian manufacturer could have challenged for the title in 2017 with the dominant Citroën team also leaving.
For the second season in a row the experienced Italian is without a drive for the following year, after the surprise announcement that LADA are to pull out of the WTCC at the end of the year.
Whilst the announcement was a shock for Tarquini, who had planned to continue next year, he also thanked the LADA Sport team for allowing him to extend his WTCC career by at least an extra season.
“I have to say thanks LADA because last year after this race I knew I would be out of the Honda team and it would be my last race in the WTCC,” explained Tarquini. “Then LADA trusted me again and I signed a contract with them to race this season.
“To be honest I’ve enjoyed it a lot. We improved a lot. I found a very good professional team [at LADA]. I did not expect the level to be fantastic but we improved a lot, the car improved a lot, the car performance improved a lot, we could fight and we won two races.”
Tarquini believes that Citroën’s exit as a works team after this weekend’s finale in Qatar would have presented the ideal opportunity for LADA to build on their two victories in the 2016 season and challenge for the title in 2017.
“Nicky [Catsburg] was able to sometimes put the car on the first row in qualifying,” added the 54-year-old. “We have had a fantastic season and scored a lot of points and it’s a shame that this will stop because now we can collect all the information from the year and we could improve in some areas of the car.
“Next year we could have won, especially as the top team is leaving. Citroën is probably the strongest team in the last ten years of the WTCC. They won many, many races, they were very strong for everybody, not only for LADA and we can have a chance to compete for the top and it’s a shame they decided to stop.”