The 2020 NWES season kicks off at the Autodromo di Vallelunga on September 12-13 – Leadlap.net boss André Wiegold analyzes the title candidates
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES) 2020 will be a very special season because the organizers had to adjust the rules due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020 season, the EuroNASCAR PRO and EuroNASCAR 2 championships will each see ten championship races without any crossed out result. Only at the final in Valencia, double points will be awarded. But who are actually the favorites for the title?
The pandemic has somewhat thinned out the grid in both championships and big names like Ander Vilarino, Ulysse Delsaux and Frederic Gabillon will skip the coming season. Nevertheless, there are many drivers in both series who have the potential to win the trophy. The key factor will be to be competitive right from the first race, because due to the tight schedule there is little chance to make up for any deficits.
EuroNASCAR PRO Championship: Hezemans against the rest
In the EuroNASCAR PRO championship, the current NWES champion Loris Hezemans is of course the favourite for the title. The Dutchman, who entered the series in 2018 and immediately won the Junior Trophy, grabbed the championship ring in his second year. In 25 races he collected five wins and twelve podiums – a strong performance. Only in qualifying – he grabbed two pole positions so far – does the 23-year-old still have to make up ground.
Alon Day is certainly the Dutchman’s biggest challenger, but the Israeli has had a change of scenery and must first get used to his new team PK Carsport. The new Monster Energy athlete will be the #24 car, which has earned team boss Anthony Kumpen two titles. The Belgians have put together an absolutely top team, which is why Day is already expected at front in Vallelunga. 20 victories in 61 NWES starts also speak for themselves.
Next on the list is Stienes Longin or “Mr. Consistency”. The Belgian was a title contender for a long time in 2019 and finally finished second. He had secured six second places last year before he was able to celebrate his first EuroNASCAR PRO victory at his home race in Zolder. Should Longin find the last tenths to drive regularly to Victory Lane and continue to be so consistent, he is a clear candidate for the title.
The list of candidates is long
Last year, Nicolo Rocca was in the middle of the title fight until his accident at the final race in Zolder. But the Italian left PK Carsport to jump in for Vilarino at DF1 Racing. The team from Austria won the EuroNASCAR 2 championship with Lasse Soerensen in 2019, but has yet to prove itself in the EuroNASCAR PRO series. With Rocca, DF1 Racing has found a capable driver who has what it takes to win his first title.
Keyword: Soerensen. The Dane will start in 2020 for DF1 Racing in the EuroNASCAR PRO championship. In the 2019 season, the giant already tried its hand in the highest NWES league at Brands Hatch and immediately achieved a top 10 result. As brilliant as he finished the 2019 season, he certainly wants to start in the new championship. Soerensen is a wonder bag and could quickly become the secret favourite.
But the Dane had a very strong competitor in the EuroNASCAR 2 championship in 2019: Giorgio Maggi. The Swiss returns to Hendriks Motorsport for the 2020 season, where he will drive the #18 car in the EuroNASCAR PRO championship. Maggi narrowly missed out on the EuroNASCAR 2 championship victory in 2019 and has already proven to be one of the best NWES drivers. Like Soerensen, he is one of the drivers who could provide a real surprise.
CAAL Racing sends a strong trio into the races
Who of course should not be missing on the list of potential champions is CAAL Racing. The ex-team of Day has three drivers in its own ranks who can fight for the title. Gianmarco Ercoli, who celebrated his first EuroNASCAR PRO victory at Brands Hatch 2018, takes over Day’s former cockpit and thus has master material at his disposal.
The second CAAL driver who is determined to win the title is Thomas Ferrando, who will share the car with Massimiliano Lanza. The Frenchman and EuroNASCAR 2 champion of 2017 took his first EuroNASCAR PRO victory in Zolder 2019 with the Italians. If he, like Longin, can regularly fight for the first place, the man with the cowboy hat could also be one of the closer circle of title candidates.
The third in the group is Marc Goossens, who will be competing with CAAL Racing for his first full-time season in the NWES. The endurance racing ace from Belgium has been competing sporadically in the NWES since 2017 and has already collected one victory and 13 podium results. Should the two-time IMSA race winner really contest all the races, he must also be reckoned with at the top.
Then there is the former Formula 1 champion and Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, who will start in the NWES in 2020 with his own team Feed Vict Racing. Last year he was part of the low-budget team Go Fas Racing, which is why he was unable to develop his full potential. At Raceway Venray, the Canadian showed off his skills in the fight for first place, which is why he could certainly be in for a surprise in 2020 if the car is well prepared.
The unpredictable EuroNASCAR 2 Championship
In the EuroNASCAR 2 championship it is not easy to make a list of possible title candidates, because 13 of the drivers in the field are rookies. The 2019 season proved that these newcomers should not be underestimated, as the first four drivers in the overall standings were NWES rookies.
The success story of Soerensen makes it very clear that rookies in the NWES have a great chance to fight at front immediately. The Dane even missed the season opener in Valencia in 2019 and still snatched the title with seven wins ahead of Maggi, who also convinced as a rookie.
But there are also some drivers in the EuroNASCAR-2 division who will have a natural advantage due to their experience. One of them is Nicholas Risitano, who took his first NWES victory in Valencia in 2019. The Italian has joined Solaris Motorsport and clearly stated his goal to fight for the title.
Another race winner and rookie from 2019 is Vittorio Ghirelli, who conquered the oval at Raceway Venray last season. The Italian, who even has GP2 experience, has joined Hendriks Motorsport to compete for the title in 2020. He is certainly one of the top favourites for the championship victory.
His team-mate Martin Doubek, with his five years of experience in the NWES, is a true veteran, but the Czech has so far lacked the pace to be at front regularly. Whether Doubek will make the breakthrough in 2020 is questionable, but the advantage of his many years in the NWES cannot be denied.
Then of course there is Andre Castro, who will be starting for DF1 Racing in 2020. In his first ever NWES race in Valencia, the US-American was about 300 meters short of turning into Victory Lane. However, in the last corner at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, he made contact with Myatt Snider and Maggi snatched the win. Should the first champ of the EuroNASCAR Esports Series finally manage to clinch his first NWES victory, the knot could burst and then the 21-year-old will be an absolute favorite for the title.
A returnee is back, who only just missed the championship victory in 2018: Guillaume Dumarey. The Belgian returns to PK Carsport to fight for overall victory for the top team around Anthony Kumpen. Dumarey has won one race in his career and has been on the podium seven times. He also belongs to the inner circle of the title favourites.
13 Rookies with a lot of potential
The big question mark in the EuroNASCAR 2 championship consists of the 13 rookies, who will make their NWES debut in 2020. These include 18-year-old Belgian Simon Pilate, who has secured a place with Feed Vict Racing through Jacques Villeneuve’s Racing Academy, Julia Landauer at PK Carsport, who wants to become the first female NWES championship winner, and Tobias Dauenhauer from Germany, who will share the car with Hezemans.
Real wonder-bags are drivers like the ex-WTCR driver Kris Richard, the 29-year-old Gasper Dernovsek or the Dane Andreas Jochimsen. Marcel Lenerz from Germany could also have a shot due to his GT experience. Dylan Derdaele, who will be driving his first NWES full-time season, is also one of the insider tips. But it is not possible to identify a clear group of favorites until the performance of the rookies has been evaluated on the first day of the race.