Néstor Girolami has moved up to second in the FIA World Touring Car Cup drivers’ standings after the races in Vallelunga, Italy, with the Münnich Motorsport driver winning the opening race of the day.
Having scored pole position on Saturday with by far the fastest lap of the weekend, Girolami started the main race on Sunday from pole position.
He withstood intense pressure from Hyundai’s Mikel Azcona throughout the race to hold on the take his second win of the year, despite the ever-present threat of both being overtaken and of a tyre failure.
The Argentine then followed his win up with fifth in race two, elevating him to second in the standings, 36 adrift of his Spanish rival.
“It was a really tough race,” said Girolami. “I knew from the beginning that starting from pole here is not an advantage, in a way that you have less grip on the inside line and I expected some wheelspin, I’d had some already.
“So I managed to keep my front bumper with his rear bumper. The first corner was luckily to the right, so that was the most important part of the race.
“Then trying to survive because this race was really, really hot. When I saw some cars having issues I said, okay, I need to be even more careful. Then came the safety car, I cooled down the tyres and engine and everything was fine.”
Girolami admitted that he was surprised at how Azcona closed in on him in the final laps of the race, after a late safety car period.
Although unbeknownst to Girolami, Azcona had already earlier been told by his team to settle for second.
“I think Mikel was having some temperature issues. I saw in the mirror he was moving the line. In that moment I thought okay, maybe he could attack.
“When he closed the gap he was having temperature issues and when the safety car came out of course everyone cooled their engines, so it was a relief but it was also a worry how much he had in the pocket to attack.
“We managed to stay in front and I knew in terms of fighting for the championship we really needed these points, so that was the target yesterday and we got it today. So I’m really happy.”