Honda’s Néstor Girolami believes this weekend’s FIA World Touring Car Cup event at Vallelunga is a ‘now or never’ moment in his championship aspirations this season.
Girolami – who won the season opening race on the streets of Pau but has since dropped to fifth overall in the drivers’ championship – has given himself the best chance of gaining ground in the drivers’ standings by putting his car on pole position in Saturday’s qualifying session in Italy.
Despite the risk of having a less favourable compensation weight calculation in future events as a result of qualifying over two tenths clear of Hyundai’s Mikel Azcona, Girolami said that he needed to claim pole in order to give himself the best chance of reducing the deficit on Sunday.
“I drove an amazing car today, and that was absolutely the limit of what we have,” said Girolami. “We have been here two days, that probably brings up the speed quite soon during free practice.
“Then with the use of new tyres I knew it was now or never. We have a 40-point difference to Azcona who is the leader and who is in front in Q3.
“For the compensation weight it is not the best, but we need to reduce that gap and to do it we need to start in front.
“So that was our target for today, to make pole, and I think this track is very good for Honda.”
Münnich Motorsport’s Girolami admits to having concerns about the race pace in his Civic, and is wary of the threat from Azcona, already a three-time race winner this year.
“It will be tough, especially because this year the races are longer than last year and we are probably suffering a lot with long pace.
“We need to be in front in clean air so we have something fresh for the engine and also for the tyres. So that is the advantage to start first.
“We’ll look for a good start and if we are in front to try and get a good pace. Of course, behind me Azcona will be fast because he’s on zero compensation [weight], so he will push but I think we can manage to fight and stay in front. That’s the target for tomorrow.”