Former WTCC champion Gabriele Tarquini has signed with Hyundai to serve as test driver for its newly-announced TCR project.
The Korean marque announced it would be expanding into TCR in the near future with a car based around the i30 road car.
Hyundai said its new machine would go through a testing programme in 2017 before it starts deliveries, and it has now signed Tarquini to bolster development.
“To be able to bring such an experienced driver into the project at this early stage is a big step forward,” said Hyundai’s customer racing boss Andrea Adamo, who previously worked with Tarquini at Honda Racing Team JAS.
“Gabriele Tarquini is recognised as one of the most successful current touring car drivers. He has also shown his ability to work with a team, helping to develop a project for competition. For us, this is very important.
“The TCR marketplace is growing, but it is very competitive, with a number of top manufacturers building models for the regulations.
“Because of this we need to take full advantage of all of our test running over the coming months so we can deliver a strong car to our customers that they can be competitive with in the full range of championships worldwide where TCR specification designs are welcomed.”
Tarquini, 55, has been part of the WTCC since 2005 – the first season of the series in its current form.
He secured 22 wins during his 11 seasons in the category, and was champion in 2009 with SEAT.
“I’m very pleased to have joined Hyundai Motorsport and their TCR project,” Tarquini said. “You can see from their rally team that they are working at a very high, a very professional, level.
“This will be my first time developing a TCR car so to be the lead test driver for the project is an exciting new challenge for me.”
Tarquini drove for Lada in the WTCC last year, but the Russian manufacturer pulled its works programme from the category at the end of the season.
In 2017, one of Tarquini’s former Lada teammates – Frenchman Hugo Valente – will be racing in the TCR International Series, having joined fellow WTCC refugees Pepe Oriola and James Nash at Craft-Bamboo Lukoil.