Néstor Girolami says that he needed the tow from Nathanaël Berthon in order to be able to stay in second place in the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup race at Anneau du Rhin, such was his Honda’s top speed deficit.
Girolami had put his Honda Civic on pole position in qualifying on Saturday, proving he had strong single-lap pace, although his advantage was less than a tenth of a second.
However, on Sunday, the Münnich Motorsport driver immediately lost the lead at the start of race one to the Audi of Berthon, and from there Girolami was mostly concerned about keeping Hyundai’s Mikel Azcona and latterly Comtoyou Racing’s Gilles Magnus behind him.
“For me it was all about doing a good job at the start,” said Girolami. “I expected that Nat would come, so from the outside I tried to break his speed, but while leaving a margin.
“He overtook me very well and from there on I had to try to defend myself from Azcona. He raced hard but with respect. We had to go side-by-side through Turn 1, which is not easy, while trying to defend until the middle of the race.
“Then I saw Azcona had lost the position to Gilles so I said ‘okay, I have to pray that Nat is not pulling away because I needed his tow to stay in second position. Without that it would have been very difficult to defend.
“Gilles tried everything. I was being a bit careful because I was told he was really pushing a lot – even with my team-mate. I had some hard moments with him, but always with respect and fair play. That’s very important.
“Thank you to my team for giving me an amazing car. We proved that over one lap we are very good but for race pace – especially with the straights – that we still have some work to do.
Girolami was not especially concerned about tyre failures during the race, saying that he had been able to manage the situation.
“Of course I had some degradation, but this is normal. I didn’t feel any kind of issue. In this regard we’re always quite good. Even in Vallelunga we managed that and didn’t have any issues.”
In race two, the Argentine came home in seventh, losing some points to title rival Azcona to leave him 35 points adrift of the top of the table after the Anneau du Rhin event.
“In race two we didn’t have the pace in the hotter conditions and I felt a little more understeer, so I just conserved what I had to make the finish.”