Gabriele García will be promoted to a full-time race seat with North Star Racing for the 2019 Formula Virtual season, it has been formally announced by the team.
Team principal Nick Forrest admitted the decision had been rumoured in the paddock for some time. "There's been quite a lot of talk about it, and I think rightly so," he told reporters, "Gabriele has performed very well in the VWRS this season, along with the two races he stood in for Johan, and I think this is the natural next step for him. He's proven himself ready for the top tier, in our view, and we're really looking forward to seeing what he can do in a full-scale campaign next year."
García will become the first member of the team's Protostars young driver academy to graduate to Formula Virtual, after being signed following a Virtual Americas Racing Series championship victory in his debut single-seater season. He then spent two seasons in the Virtual World Racing Series, the 2018 season recently coming to a close at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.
"I'm thrilled to be joining the Formula Virtual grid next season," García said when the news broke. "It's what I've been working towards for my whole career, and to finally get the opportunity to race with the bext drivers in the world is a dream come true. I have to give thanks to Nick and everyone else for having that faith in me, and I hope to start repaying them as soon as we get on track in Melbourne."
The move leaves the team's current driver Judson Sikes without a race seat for 2019. The Russian was loaned by Ocelot for North Star's debut year, but has yet to score a point in his third season for the team, which now appears as though it will be his last.