Hugo Valente says that his deal to drive for Craft-Bamboo Racing in the TCR International Series was ‘last minute and unexpected’, despite the Frenchman having considered racing in TCR for the past two years.
Valente was announced as the third driver for the Anglo-Hong Kong team just over two weeks ago, joining Pepe Oriola and James Nash in the team.
After enduring what he described as a ‘terrible’ season at LADA last year in the World Touring Car Championship, Valente appeared to be at ease in his new setting in TCR.
“I was looking for options at the end of last year, and I didn’t want to pay again to race, so that was the difficult part,” explained Valente to TouringCars.Net. “I’ve been looking at TCR for two years now, and I almost joined them last year.
“I spoke to West Coast Racing and I spoke to Craft-Bamboo and everyone was asking for budgets which were too high for what I had, with the sponsors that are supporting me.”
As a result of LADAs withdrawal from the WTCC, and not having a TCR deal at the end of 2016, Valente, who has a seven month old daughter, expected to be putting his racing career on hold for the coming season.
“Honestly, I went into the vacation in December thinking that I was not going to drive. I had the mindset of thinking ‘OK, I’m a Dad now, working with my Dad’, and to forget about racing. I was not even looking for it anymore.
“Then, in January, when I was working with my Dad every day, Richard [Coleman, Craft-Bamboo Racing CEO] called me out of the blue and told me that he had an offer for me, which covered the money from the sponsors that I have. So I said ‘OK, sign me up’ straight away.
“I was talking to Craft-Bamboo already the year before, and I’ve known Richard for quite a while. It’s been very last minute and unexpected, but that gives me an extra motivation.
“With my mindset I was thinking that racing is over, and I was [expecting] to miss it. It was very frustrating to finish with that year at LADA; it kind of fucked with my head a little bit. When I got the opportunity with Craft-Bamboo I was very, very happy.
“If you are racing to win races and be in the top five all of the time it’s much more fun and much more rewarding.”
Valente, who also has experience of three full seasons of racing in the WTCC under his belt, adds that he sees TCR as the future of touring car racing.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be racing my entire life, but at least for the next two or three years, I think TCR is the way.
“In the WTCC they want to change the regulations again with bigger, faster and wider cars with bigger budgets, but it’s not touring cars anymore. It’s going to be like a GT class, but it’s not touring cars; this is touring cars and I want to be in touring cars.
“TCR is the future of touring cars and there will be a lot more drivers from WTCC in the next few years that will come to TCR.”