Former Formula 1 driver and touring car legend Gabriele Tarquini is the first ever FIA World Touring Car Cup Champion.

The 56-year old Italian, who wears a Stilo ST5F Zero 8860 helmet with a Stilo ST5 Top Air System, drove a BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR in the series that was previously known as the FIA World Touring Car Championship – winning the title at the final race meeting in Macau.

How good does it feel to be the inaugural FIA World Touring Car Cup Champion?
“I wanted to win because it was a long season, a tough season, the first season of WTCR. And I was leading for 90 per cent of the time. It’s great and WTCR has been great. I must also thank Hyundai for choosing me in the beginning, all the BRC Racing Team, the mechanics and my team-mate [Norbert Michelisz]. And I also want to congratulate Yvan [Muller], who made a great job through the season. He was my toughest opponent. And I forgot to thank my family – my wife, my daughter and son!”

Did you expect to win at the start of the season?
“To be honest I expected to be fighting for the title. I already knew the car was very good but there are four Hyundais and the level of the others are very high, Norbi, Yvan and Thed [Björk] are very good. As I said at the beginning of the year it will probably not be the fastest guy who wins the title but probably the luckiest guy or the cleverest guy because it’s a long season with 30 races.”

After you retired in Race 2 at Macau, did you think your title hopes were over?
“I won the title in the hardest way, by my mistake. I cannot blame anybody else, it was my mistake in qualifying. Without this it would probably have been easier, but with this mistake starting P14 in the second and third race I knew something could happen during the start. In the second race something happened because I was in a very good position, I overtook two or three cars. Somebody crashed in front of me, but we were stopping in the middle of Lisboa and they destroyed the back of my car. The third race, probably the worst start of my weekend, but I had a little bit more chance to survive in this corner. After the first lap 50 per cent of the job was done. It was quite tough because I had Thed behind me, it was quite hard, but the car was much faster than yesterday because yesterday I had some trouble with the performance of my car. It was tough, but it’s even better than if it was easier.”

How does this achievement compare to your other FIA World Touring Car title?
“It’s on the top because the level of competition is probably higher than 2009 when it was more or less the SEAT drivers in contention. This is not like 2009 because it was a lot of fight with a lot of drivers. And with the Balance of Performance sometimes you are top, sometimes you are down and for everybody it’s very tough to score points.”

Is it true you considered stopping after that 2009 success?
“I have the memory nine years ago walking to the press conference with a world title, and I was thinking to stop racing because what do you want to achieve more than a world title? It’s probably the best time to stop, but walking there I was thinking ‘why should I stop, I want to race. I have the adrenaline, I am not very slow, I can compete again.’ And I decided, because SEAT stopped, to start again with a private team in 2010. It was a tough moment but nine years later I was playing for the title again. It’s very strange but sometimes life is very strange.”

Your title win must doubly satisfying, because you played a big role in the development of the Hyundai i30 N TCR?
“It was a long preparation, it was a long effort from me but also from Hyundai, the engineers, the mechanics, the team. Everything was well prepared from the beginning, the plan was very good we approached this season in the best way. I am very proud what we did.”

Yvan Muller has announced his plans to return to WTCR in 2019. Will you come back to defend your title?
“To be honest, I don’t know yet. I want to cool down. I’m 56, I’m still quite fast, probably a little bit more clever than when I was younger. This is my third world title, because I won one in karting. I don’t think that I want to stop, so if Hyundai would be pleased to let me continue, I will continue.”