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“Agostini, Sato and Rosa fill first Auto GP seats”

January 31, 2013

Italian Formula 3 champion, Riccardo Agostini has joined Kimiya Sato {note 1} and Andrea Roda as early season signings for the Auto GP World Series.

The 18-year-old Agostini will drive for MP Motorsport, as they prepare to enter their second full-season in the category.

Agostini’s promotion tops off a year in which he grabbed his national Formula 3 title {note 2}, earning a test with a Ferrari F1 car, before joining a post-season GP2 test.

Boasting such graduates as Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean, Nicolas Prost, Romain Dumas, Warren Hughes, Gimmi Bruni and Vitaly Petrov has proved a powerful selling point for the series – and Agostini is keen to make his name known. “My goal is to learn the car which is remarkably faster than in Formula 3, and fight to win a very tough championship with top teams and drivers,” said the Italian.
Starting this year, MP Motorsport have expanded their competitive portfolio to include the GP2 Series, giving Agostini an extra target to hit for 2014. He added “I’m very satisfied with this deal with MP Motorsport, this will be a key experience in order to make a successful move to GP2.

For Sato, the road has been less clear-cut. Three seasons in national level Formula 3 yielded eight wins {note 3} alongside a single triumph in the F3 Euro Series; however at the age of 23, the Japanese racer is running the risk of slipping from the radar.
A strong season with Euronova Racing could get people talking once again and after gaining some momentum is last year’s ATS Formula 3 Cup, this may well be Sato’s best opportunity.

Of the three signing’s so far, Italian pilot Andrea Roda is the one with the most to prove. The 22-year-old has yet to win a single race in his seven year long racing career, coming closest to that honour with a podium during the 2009 Formula Renault Italy championship with BVM Minardi. Roda has joined up with Virtuosi UK, a team of relative inexperience in Auto GP, but who still claimed three victories in 2012 thanks to Norwegian driver Pål Varhaug.
Roda may have some work to do to achieve results, but it appears the Italian is – at least – realistic about what lies ahead. “I’m very happy to take this adventure with the team Virtuosi UK, I am confident that we will do well together. It’s going to be hard but the first goal is a place onto the podium, then we see what happens”.

The 2013 Auto GP World Series kicks off in Monza over the 23rd and 24th of March {note 4}. Meanwhile, former Auto GP champion (then known as Euroseries 3000) Giacomo Ricci commented recently about his desire to rejoin the series.
In an on site Q&A with the Auto GP press office, the former GP2 Series racer and driver coach was quite frank as to his reasoning for looking at a way back. “In my current situation, Auto GP would be the perfect choice in an effort to reinvent my career. In the last few years I haven’t had the chance to race a lot due to budget constraints, but I don’t feel ready to retire at all. In fact, I’m still fully motivated and committed. Auto GP can also open new paths in other categories like GT, prototypes, WTCC or DTM.”
Ricci also added “[Auto GP’s] been a great learning experience and it also enabled me to showcase my ability before moving forward to the GP2 Series. Enzo Coloni is always ready to back young drivers and helped me in many occasions. I hope to be on-track in the 2013 Auto GP series and continue on this path.”

{note 1}
Kimiya Sato is – as far as I’m aware – not related to former-Formula One racer Takuma Sato, so less of those quick conclusions please.

{note 2}
Just like Formula Abarth, Italian Formula 3 was split into European and Italian sections, with points from the Italian and one Austria events counting towards the national class, while the European class included additional rounds in Valencia and Budapest.

{note 3}
Débuting in All-Japan Formula 3 National Class in 2009, Sato took three wins n his way to runner-up in the series; however the Japanese racer suffered a set-back the following year when he claimed only a single victory, dropping to 4th in the standings.
Despite this, Sato moved to Europe in 2011 to contest the F3 Euro Series, grabbing a reverse grid win at Zandvoort, helping him to 10th in standings. A move down to the ATS German F3 Cup last year brought about four more wins and 3rd place in the championship, albeit a long way behind champion Jimmy Eriksson and runner-up man Lucas Auer.

{note 4}
The calendar was also finalised in recent weeks. As previously noted, there is to be eight rounds, four of which are supporting WTCC, while the rest play next to the F3 Masters, DTM, Superstars and ETCC.
However due to the ongoing uncertainty over SRO’s Formula 3 programme, the date of the Masters – at one time looking solid – may yet move to another week in July.

2013 Auto GP World Series Schedule (*provisional)
March 24     Italy (Monza) with WTCC 
April 7      Morocco (Marrakech) with WTCC 
May 5        Hungary (Budapest) with WTCC 
June 9       Russia (Moscow) with WTCC 
July 14      The Netherlands (Zandvoort) with Master F3*
August 18    Germany (Nürburgring) with DTM 
September 1  Great Britain (Donington) with Superstars 
October 6    Czech Republic (Brno) with ETCC
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