Mehdi Bennani has been signed to Scuderia Proteam BMW for the 2011 WTCC season Javier Villa

Scuderia Proteam has finalised its driver line-up for the 2011 World Touring Car Championship season, announcing that Mehdi Bennani will transfer to the outfit after a year with the Wiechers Sport concern, while also announcing that GP2 driver Javier Villa will make his WTCC debut.

Bennani will be entering his third WTCC season with his third different team. The Moroccan driver made a sensational debut in 2009 with the Exagon Engineering outfit, piloting his petrol-powered SEAT to an Independent-class win on home soil on his WTCC debut, and he finished eighth overall in the class standings despite only competing in half the events.

This then led to a switch to BMW power with Wiechers Sport, and while Bennani improved to fifth overall in the class standings, his season was blighted by a series of racing accidents and several complaints about some rather aggressive driving at times. He took two WTCC championship points’ finishes – at Morocco, where he won the Independent class again, and Japan – and finished twentieth in the overall standings.

This year will see Bennani pilot a new-for-2011 BMW 320TC for a team that won the Independent Trophy championship titles in 2010.

The Moroccan will be joined by Spaniard Javier Villa, who has contested four seasons in GP2 and is a close friend of Fernando Alonso.

Villa picked up three GP2 wins in 2007 with the Racing Engineering outfit – and was also linked with a possible role with the Campos Meta F1 team in the lead-up to the 2010 World Championship season, before it was bought out and rebranded Hispania Racing.

Villa has limited tin-top experience – with just a season of Mini Challenge races behind him last year – and faces a steep learning curve with next-to-no pre-season testing opportunities.

The pair will occasionally be joined by Italian touring car driver Fabio Fabiani, who will drive for the team a some rounds in an older-spec BMW 320i.

[Original images via Flickr]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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