Roberto La Rocca made an immediate impact and was racing right at the front on his debut in the 2013 Auto GP World Series at the Nurburgring in Germany last weekend.
The Venezuelan pilot, who had been racing in Formula 3, got the chance to make the step up to Auto GP after impressing in a recent test and despite his lack of experience he was a very promising eighth in practice in his Comtec By Virtuosi-run car.
He then set the twelfth quickest time in qualifying, only a couple of tenths off a place inside the-top ten, before proceeding to run strongly in the two races.
Indeed in the opening race on Saturday, the current US F2000 Champion made a good start and moved up to tenth early on. He then slipped back a bit, before hauling his way back up the order to take eighth. That meant he not only scored points in his very first Auto GP race, but also, due to the reverse grid rules, it gave him pole position for the second race the following day.
On Sunday, the 22-year-old shined again, and in the first half, ran in the top-three - including leading for two laps - until he had to make his mandatory pit stop. He re-joined with the front runners and enjoyed a good dice with Narain Karthikeyan until the final tour, when the former F1 racer pushed him into a half-spin and got by and into P5. Despite that, Roberto recovered well and still crossed the line in seventh as the top rookie.
“It has been a good weekend for me and our pace was very encouraging,” said Roberto. “We were able to run at the front of the field and we were able to set similar times to the top drivers. We can be happy about that.
“We also led a few laps in the second race. Then we came into the pits and when we came out we were with the lead group again. Fighting with those guys on cold tyres - it probably took about two laps for them to come in and get up to temperature - was very tough, but at the same time it was good fun.
“The highlight for me this weekend was battling with Narain Karthikeyan. I was able to hold him off for 10 or so laps until he got me at the end. That is nothing to be ashamed of however. He has got a ton of experience and to be able to be racing against someone like him was excellent, especially in my first weekend in Auto GP.
“It was also my first time doing races with pit stops. That was another new experience, but I really enjoyed it.
“We did have a few issues with the car. We kept getting a lot of rear tyre lock-ups in every braking zone and that cost us quite a bit of time. Unfortunately we weren't able to fix that, but with only one practice session time was short. I am sure we would have been even quicker but for that and perhaps we could have finished a few places higher up too.”