Gabriele Tarquini will be pleased to score a podium finish after nearly stalling his Hyundai i30 N TCR on the grid for the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race in Slovakia.
The Italian put his BRC Racing Team machine on pole by over half a second and was the sole Hyundai not found after qualifying to have exceeded the maximum boost pressure and be subsequently sent to the back.
However, a slow start reduced his chances of victory, though he put in a spirited fightback to re-pass Yann Ehrlacher’s Honda and the Peugeot 308 of Aurelien Comte to take third at the chequered flag.
The result could prove crucial, as he cut non-scoring Yvan Muller’s lead in the championship standings to a mere five markers.
“The start wasn’t really, really good, I was close to stopping the engine,” admitted Tarquini to TouringCars.net.
“I’m very lucky to have lost only five positions I think, I recovered one at the first corner with I think Ehrlacher. I was able to overtake Comte in the initial few laps and I was quite far away from the two guys in front of me, and before the safety car I was quite sure that just to finish the race without any risks.
“The safety car gave me another chance, I closed the gap and I was pushing very hard to stay just behind the two guys in front of me, but I didn’t have any possibility to overtake Jean-Karl because he drove very well, no mistakes, so it was quite tricky and too risky. No chance.”
He also says the championship wasn’t at the forefront of his thoughts during the contest, despite the golden opportunity to thin Muller’s then-22 point lead.
“It was a good chance for me because I was the only Hyundai in the first positions on the grid,” he added.
“I didn’t think about the championship. I want to start as good as I can and win the race, but unfortunately my start wasn’t really good. After I tried to stay away from the trouble.
“As I approached the first corner I was the slowest car and normally the faster car comes from behind and it’s normal that you can be in an accident quite easily.
“Fortunately, it was not [the case]. I tried not to stay inside, to go outside to avoid problems and afterwards I didn’t get any possibility to gain positions, except the Comte position because in the race out of the car four he was the slowest car, so we could build a gap to the Peugeot”.
The weekend continues with second qualifying at 14:10 BST.