Meet the 20-year-old German youngster who joins two-time champion Norbert Kiss in the second of the Mercedes-Benz trucks run by the experienced Team Tankpool24 Racing outfit
It was only as recently as 2017 when the successful kart racer Fabio Citignola stepped up to car competition.
Even if initially his career path wasn’t that conventional [instead of mooving directly to car racing, he spent a season competing in time attack events, winning the German Timeattack Masters behind the wheel of a Nissan GT-R], Citignola has proved to be fast and also a quick learner.
The German then switched to car racing, competing in the Renault Clio Cup Central Europe where he finished eighth in the final standings. He, however, also made several appearances in the DTM-supporting Audi R8 Cup, becoming a podium finisher in both series.
But even at this stage, the man himself didn’t expect that 2019 will bring so far the biggest challenge of his career – a leap into an FIA ETRC, with a front-running team and a two-time champion as a team-mate in the shape of Norbert Kiss. As Citignola explains, it was all made possible thanks to a sponsor.
“Hegelmann Group is a partner from Team Tankpool24 Racing as well as a sponsor in touring cars,” he says.
“Tankpool was looking for a new driver and Hegelmann offered me. After a day, Markus Bauer [team principal] was at my home and we talked about it. Now I’m here and I’m very excited,” he explains.
Citignola is well aware of the challenge of adapting to truck racing.
“For me, the biggest challenge is going to be the different driving line from touring cars," says Citignola.
“In a touring car on the corner entry you have to get as much momentum as you can to overtake at the end of the straight and in truck racing, it’s exactly the opposite.
“You have to overtake out of the corner with the torque of the engine because maximum speed is limited to 160kph,” he explains.
The 20 year-old is quick to point out how important the partnership with Kiss is for him.
“I’m very happy to be Norbi’s team-mate because he’s very experienced and he’s very honest. He tells me all the tips and tricks to make me faster. He’s a good teacher.”
Thrown into the deep end
With virtually no truck racing experience and a limited testing programme (the team skipped Most preseason testing and only conducted a session held on an airfield in Hungary), Citignola doesn’t set himself any specific goals ahead of the season.
“I don’t have goals because I haven’t driven yet, but will give my best to get as fast as I can and perform at my best and bring the Tankpool24 Racing team as good results as possible," he says.
“I think with Norbi as my teacher it will be a good team. Maybe top 10? We will see."
Other racing ventures
With his main focus being on truck racing, Citignola will remain active in other forms of racing in order to keep developing his skillset as a racing driver.
“Truck racing is the only thing I will do a full season of," he explains.
"I have some testing planned in a Porsche and I think one race at Misano with the Audi R8. We have our own Porsche, maybe we will do a guest start in the Supercup in Germany,” he explains.
Making his truck racing debut on Italian soil is somewhat special for Citignola, who was born to an Italian father.
“My father is Italian and my mother is German. I don’t speak Italian but I like the track itself and the weather.”
At this stage, it’s difficult to say how Citignola’s truck racing future will pan out, given he hasn’t turned a wheel of his racing truck in anger yet. However, given his track record in 'tin-tops' and the fact he’s part of a team with championship aspirations, he will be taken seriously by the FIA ETRC paddock.
And with 20-year-old José Eduardo Rodrigues and 18-year-old Teo Calvet already making their FIA ETRC debut, there’s a new wave of youngsters entering the FIA ETRC. Surely there are future race-winners amongst them!