NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

EuroNASCAR PRO Grobnik: Hezemans extends lead in overall standings

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese

Loris Hezemans extended his lead in the overall EuroNASCAR PRO standings with a win and a second-place finish at Grobnik – The Dutchman leads ahead of Vittorio Ghirelli and Gianmarco Ercoli, who grabbed his first win of the season

Loris Hezemans and Gianmarco Ercoli are the happy winners of EuroNASCAR PRO rounds seven and eight, which were held in Grobnik, Croatia. For Ercoli, the fourth event of the 2021 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES) almost included a double victory, but a penalty set the Italian back. On Sunday, a dramatic crash between Jacques Villeneuve and Lucas Lasserre rounded out a thrilling weekend.

Saturday: Hezemans benefits from penalty against Ercoli

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese

Hezemans started the race from pole position but was overtaken by Ercoli on the first lap. A hot duel developed at the front as the Hendriks driver stayed close on the back bumper of the Rome native. Hezemans only eased the pressure when he was informed about a time penalty for the CAAL Racing driver.

The Italian received a ten-second time penalty for a misconduct at the start, which was added to his race time after the checkered flag. The reason for the penalty was that Ercoli did not drive through his start marker during start as stated by the rules, but stayed close to Hezemans. The starting procedure was changed before the 2021 season.

As a result, the actual second-place finisher on the track was allowed to turn into Victory Lane. “I still wanted to pass him fair and clean but it’s quite hard when you get pushed into the grass every time you’re next to him”, said Hezemans, who celebrated his 11th EuroNASCAR PRO win.

“There is not much of an option you can use. He likes to complain but for me it’s no problem. In the end it was very good and I was very happy with the car. I’m also happy with the results we are getting in event after event. So far it has been a very good season but it’s going to be close as I’m going to miss Zolder. The reasons for this will be announced soon but I can tell you it’s great stuff coming up.”

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese

Hezemans’ teammate Vittorio Ghirelli finished second. As a result, the Italian still has a good chance of winning the championship title in the 2021 EuroNASCAR PRO season. Despite his excellent second-place finish, Ghirelli was not fully satisfied because a brake problem in qualifying had prevented a better starting position. In addition, according to Ghirelli, it is difficult to overtake on the high-speed track. Nevertheless, the racing driver from Fasano was satisfied to have made the most of the situation.

The podium was completed by 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. Asked about the poor overtaking opportunities, the Canadian found clear words: “It’s difficult to overtake because in Europe there’s a lot of blocking. In the US it’s not like that. It’s just the modern way of racing, there’s blocking all the time and then of course you can’t overtake.” Nevertheless, he was very pleased with the result: to have moved up from sixth on the grid to third place was a good result, the Canadian said.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese

RDV Competition rider Ulysse Delsaux won the race in the Junior Trophy. Second place in the special classification went to Ercoli, who dropped to tenth overall due to his time penalty. Rounding out the podium was Vict Motorsport rookie Leonardo Colavita, who’s just 16 years old an made an excellent debut in EuroNASCAR PRO. At 16 years and 3 days in his debut, he is the youngest driver in NWES history.

Veteran Fabrizio Armetta decided the Challenger Trophy race in his favor, beating Marko Stipp Motorsport driver Yevgen Sokolovskiy and Henri Tuomaala from Iceboys-DF1-Racing in second and third place.

Sunday: Ercoli strikes back!

The second race of the EuroNASCAR PRO Series last weekend was then all about Ercoli. Again it was Hezemans who started the race from pole position, but Ercoli pushed past the Dutchman with a maneuver worth seeing on the second lap.

The two drove door to door for several turns before Ercoli ultimately gained the upper hand over his opponent. This meant that the two protagonists of the previous day were again at the head of the field, but defending champion Alon Day from CAAL Racing and Villeneuve were also putting pressure on the leader. But Ercoli withstood the pressure to secure his third career win in the highest class of the NWES.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese

“When I lead a race, I don’t feel the pressure because it’s on my chasers”, said Ercoli, who also won the battle in the Junior Trophy classification for drivers up to an age of 25. “The whole CAAL Racing team did a very good job. Yesterday the win slipped out of our hands but today we made it happen.

“We are still in the title hunt and we proved we can beat the best. We wanted the 1-2 for CAAL Racing but that didn’t work out. We will try again next time at Zolder and the battle is on. Right now, I’m just very happy about the win!”

Hezemans was overtaken by Day on lap three, putting him a little out of rhythm. In the meantime, he dropped back to eighth place, but in the last two laps events rolled over.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese

Villeneuve and Speedhouse driver Lucas Lasserre battled for second place. In the process, Lasserre overshot the mark somewhat and pushed the Canadian off the track. In the process, the Frenchman earned himself a 30-second time penalty, which ultimately sent him back to eleventh place.

As on the previous day, it was now Ghirelli who crossed the finish line in second place – but he too was penalized for pushing Lasserre off the track. The five-second penalty meant that the Italian was classified in fourth place.

The beneficiary was Hezemans, who thus inherited second place. The podium was completed by Day, who therefore preserved his chance of successfully defending the title. After the next race in Zolder, the regular season ends and the drivers are allowed to scratch the two worst results of the season so far.

With his overall victory, Ercoli also secured victory in the Junior Trophy. Second place in the classification for drivers up to 25 years of age was secured by Colavita, who took his second podium finish on the debut weekend.The Challenger Trophy was won by Armetta – ahead of Davide Dallara and Sokolovskiy.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese

The situation ahead of the regular season finale

followed by Ghirelli, just 25 points behind. Ercoli is in third place after his victory – only 32 points behind the top. Nicolo Rocca and Day complete the top 5 ahead of the race in Zolder.

The regular season of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series ends on October 9 and 10 at the traditional circuit in Zolder, Belgium. Qualifying and all races will be broadcast on the Leadlap.de / Leadlap.net Facebook page.

Frank Reipen