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Nestor Girolami could make WTCC début in 2015

Nestor GirolamiArgentine touring car star Nestor Girolami could make his World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) début as early as this season, according to Series Director François Ribeiro.

The 25-year-old currently competes in the Argentine Turismo Carretera (TC2000) series, in which he has competed since the 2007 series. Having taken the title outright for Peugeot in 2014, the rising star is keen to make a mark in the WTCC, just as his compatriot López has.

Ribeiro admits that he was instrumental in putting Girolami in contact with LADA Sport Team Principal Viktor Shapovalov, for whom the Argentine tested in the week following the previous round of the championship.

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“I proposed to Viktor to test [someone new], I said let me fly you Girolami, let me put him in the car and you will see. Viktor gave me a call on Tuesday after the test and said he’s ready to sign him immediately for 2016.

“He’s a young guy, he’s of the simulator generation like López, he’s a touring car expert and he has no single-seater background. He felt immediately comfortable with a TC1 car. He’s super-professional and super-committed and Viktor said he wants to sign him immediately.”

Despite some calendar clashes with TC2000, in which Girolami has a contract with Peugeot for 2015, Ribeiro expects him to be able to take part in some WTCC races later in the season.

“I hope will do some races this year. The TC2000 calendar is not clashing all the time with WTCC, so I’m working to put him in a car this year. When he comes, I don’t give him one race before his performance is comparable with the top drivers.”

Ribeiro emphasised the need for a new generation of touring car stars to emerge, with recent changes having seen LADA part company with experienced driver James Thompson following the Hungaroring round.

“Thompson is a good guy, and he has been a touring car legend, but look at the facts,” added Ribeiro. “I put the facts on a piece of paper and I put it in front of Viktor, and I said ‘just tell me, don’t you think you need a better driver, a younger, faster and more committed driver?’ And the answer was yes.”

Ribeiro has expressed his desire for drivers to enter from both single-seater backgrounds and the more traditional feeder touring car categories, adding his support to the new TCR concept of a touring car pyramid devised by former WTCC boss Marcello Lotti.

“If we are lucky, in the next 12 to 18 months I see ten professional factory seats to be allocated,” added Ribeiro. “Some of them will be awarded, I hope, to drivers such as [Hugo] Valente. I told him to do two or three races like at the Hungaroring and the whole paddock will look at him completely differently.

“We cannot award ten factory seats out of the family of WTCC drivers, so we will have to recruit from outside. I’m sure we will get drivers with a single-seater or LMP background, or expert touring car drivers like Girolami, and it will refresh the championship and dramatically raise the level.

“There should be a touring car pyramid, and we are all behind schedule to build that pyramid together.”

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