Q and A: Néstor Girolami and Esteban Guerrieri
"We are really good friends since a lot of years"
Opportunity knocked for two home talents and good friends when the FIA World Touring Car Championship visited Termas de Río Hondo last August.
Esteban Guerrieri, having secured a one-off drive in the series, became a rookie sensation when he set the fastest lap of the weekend in an under-developed Chevrolet Cruze thanks to a sensational run in the first phase of qualifying.
Two days later, Néstor Girolami was invited to test a Volvo S60 Polestar for the factory team at the track and created such an impression that he was promptly signed to race for the squad in Japan later in the year with a full-time contract his eventual reward.
While there was no works drive for Guerrieri, he nevertheless secured the funds for a partial WTCC campaign with the Campos Racing team, for whom he drove in Termas, and promptly won the opening round in Morocco back in April.
As the WTCC makes its fifth visit to Argentina this weekend, Girolami and Guerrieri took time out from their usual pre-race preparations to talk about their hopes for world championship success, their friendship and their shared passion for all things motorsport.
Q: Esteban, you showed plenty of pace on your WTCC debut last year but didn’t quite get the results. How did that feel?
EG: “It was a feeling like it was close but no cigar. But I believe things happen for a reason and I couldn’t change it. It was an opportunity to really perform but I couldn’t wrap it up so that was a little bit of a bad feeling. Nevertheless, I got to know the WTCC and made a good impression by being fast. The goal was achieved because what happened in Argentina last year means we are here now.”
Q: Néstor, how crucial was your test with Polestar Cyan Racing last year?
NG: “This test changed everything because we showed the speed to the team and we improved quite a lot on the day. It was a dream come true what happened after this and I think I deserved to be part of this great team.”
Q: What was the reaction like following your performance during the race weekend?
EG: “It was a big positive response but it could have been bigger if I made a result or fought Pechito [José María López] for the win. I was fast but the podium didn’t happen.”
Q: How much of a challenge is Termas de Río Hondo for a driver?
NG: “The last sector is quite technical and people lock a lot the tyres in the last corner. This is one secret we have because we know how to set up the car so we don’t lock the tyres. This is really important and maybe we can take some advantage from this.”
Q: Do you enjoy being a race driver?
EG: “I love what I’m doing. Racing around the world is like a dream come true. I love travelling and I love adapting to new circumstances on the track and off the track. I always try to go to the limit and this also gives me a lot of joy. Then there’s the atmosphere that’s created around a world championship.”
Q: It’s fair to say your season hasn’t gone as you’d hoped it would?
NG: “I feel I have the speed to be at the top but I only have bad luck. Motorsport is like this, sometimes you get the luck, sometimes you get the bad luck. You need to be patient, be focused and do your best to help your team. We are fighting for two championships and it’s important I can help my team-mates. But it’s also time to reset, focus on the five races left and try to do my best and be on top in every race because this is my spirit.”
Q: It’s a busy season for you racing in Súper TC2000 and WTCC. How do you cope?
EG: “It’s not taking me much time to readapt to each car but it’s taking a couple of days to readapt after the flying. I have to listen to what my body wants.”
Q: How excited are you to be racing in the WTCC in front of your home fans?
NG: “It was one of my dreams and it’s really important for me to be close to my fans. Hopefully we have less compensation weight in the car in Argentina so it can be a better result. It will also be fantastic to share this weekend with Esteban and our fans. We have been thinking about this for many years and fighting for it. Now we achieved it we deserve to enjoy this weekend.”
EG: “It’s a race I will really enjoy and I hope the people compete to support me and also Bebu [Girolami]. I will approach the weekend like I do any other weekend but racing at home will give an extra boost.”
Q: And what about your friendship?
NG: “We are really good friends since a lot of years. We share a lot of races in Argentina and all over the world. He helped me a lot when I raced in Formula Renault and now I try to help him when we go to new tracks that I know, like Vila Real in Portugal for example.”
Q: What do you think of Néstor, Esteban?
EG: “Well, I don’t let him win because he’s my friend but he’s a great person and a great driver, one of the best. He’s very dedicated, very much into details and he’s smart enough to change things when he needs to. He’s very critical of himself.”
Q: And what do you think of Esteban, Néstor?
NG: “He’s a really fast driver, he won a lot of things in Argentina and all over the world. He showed the speed in every category. He’s a complete driver and it’s nice we can grow together in the WTCC.”
Q: It must have been a good feeling when you shared the front row of the grid for the Opening Race at the Nürburgring Nordschleife earlier this season?
NG: “This was fantastic but it was really short because Esteban had a problem with the start and after that I had a big problem with the puncture. Hopefully we have another opportunity in Termas.”
Q: If you weren’t racing what would you be doing right now?
EG: “When I was five I asked my mother to jump in a go-kart and when I was seven I asked her to change me to a bilingual school because Ayrton Senna said that to be a professional driver you need to know how to manage a computer and how to speak English. Most days when I was 12 or 13, I woke up and would say to my mother I go to school now but when I am asked to race in Europe you let me go. And she said I will let you go but now you have to go to school. I already said that before it happened so when it happened she had to let me go! In fact, I finished my secondary school last year. I left the school when I was 15 and I had two years to do and I did it last year. So that was one goal planned in my life. I like tennis but probably I would like to study marketing or public relations.”
NG: “I think I would be another driver! I can’t imagine life without motorsport. I feel it in my blood. It’s something my father showed me since I was four years old in a go-kart. It’s something you really feel. It’s so special for me that I don’t know what I do if I don’t do motorsport.”
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