Hezemans and Ercoli win in Vallelunga, Villeneuve with bad luck
On an exciting Sunday, Loris Hezemans and Gianmarco Ercoli were victorious in the EuroNASCAR PRO series at the Autodromo di Vallelunga – Jacques Villeneuve had bad luck
The season opener in the PRO category of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES) at Autodromo di Vallelunga was a thrilling one. In two exciting races, EuroNASCAR champion Loris Hezemans and CAAL racing returnee Gianmarco Ercoli end up as the winners. In the first race, Jacques Villeneuve had to stop his car while leading.
Hezemans (Hendriks Motorsport) had previously secured pole position in qualifying for the first race of the day. Alongside him, the two-time champion Alon Day (PK Carsport) started from the first row. After the green flag had been waived, Hezemans prevailed against the other competitors, but Day and Villeneuve (Feed Fict Racing) put a lot of pressure on him.
The battle for victory remained exciting: Day launched an attack against Hezemans and overtook the Dutchman. However, the Israeli made a small mistake, which was stone-coldly exploited by Villeneuve. The Canadian passed both competitors and took the lead. Hezemans lined up in second place ahead of Day.
In the closing stages, it initially looked as if Villeneuve would pick up the pace and speed to victory – but only seconds later he suddenly lost pace, so the Canadian had to park his car two laps before the end.
It would have been the first NWES victory for the 1997 Formula 1 world champion. Just two laps later, the winner was Hezemans, who defended the attacks by Day and Ercoli after the Canadian’s retirement.
“I think everybody enjoyed that race, but for me it was one of the tougher races to be honest,” said Hezemans, who scored his sixth career win. “We were really struggling with setup issues, but maybe it’s down to me. The car felt very loose and I think we will work a little bit on it before Round 2. I’m really happy but I have to see what happened to Jacques because this race was his to win. I don’t think I had the pace to overtake him, so let’s try to improve in Round 2 and come back stronger.”
In the Junior Trophy classification for drivers under 25 years of age, Ercoli won ahead of Lasse Soerensen (DF1 Racing) and Giorgio Maggi (Hendriks Motorsport). Important: Hezemans is not allowed to race for the Junior Trophy title anymore due to his NWES championship victory in 2019! Davide Dallara (Not Only Motorsport) beat Dario Caso (Feed Vict Racing) and Yevgen Sokolovskiy in the Challenger Trophy classification for bronze and silver drivers.
In the first run Lasse Soerensen (DF1 Racing) made a brilliant catch-up. The Dane and current EuroNASCAR-2 champion drove from the back of the field to sixth place and secured pole position for the second race with the fastest lap.
However, it was Ercoli (CAAL Racing) who prevailed at the start, which caused Soerensen to drop back to second place. Hezemans, on the other hand, struggled, which is why the winner of the first race fell back to eleventh place for a short time. At the top, Ercoli defended himself against the attacking Soerensen, but he put a lot of strain on his tires.
Therefore Villeneuve came closer and closer and attacked the Dane again and again. Lucas Lasserre (Mishumotors), who passed both of them, profited from this battle. Thus the Frenchman was in second ahead of Villeneuve and Sörensen. Day also passed the DF1 driver during the race, who ultimately completed the top 5 ahead of Hezemans.
At the top, Ercoli left nothing to burn: The Italian parried all the attacks and after his triumph at Brands Hatch 2018 took his second EuroNASCAR PRO victory. Villeneuve passed Lasserre on the last lap, while Day was ranked fourth.
“I had a good start and grabbed the first place after the first corner,” said Ercoli, who also topped the standings in the Junior Trophy classification. “Afterwards I was able to fend off all attacks and grab my second EuroNASCAR PRO career win. I made my debut with CAAL Racing in 2014 and to grab the trophy for the team in our second race back together is just fantastic. Of course we want to keep this momentum in Zolder.”
As in the first race, the Italian also won the Junior Trophy ahead of Soerensen and Maggi. In the Challenger classification Bernardo Manfre (Shadow Racing Cars by 42 Racing) prevailed over Sokolovskiy and Stefano Attianese (Alex Caffi Motorsport).
Already in three weeks the next race of the NWES is on the schedule. On October 3-4 the drivers will fight for important points at the Circuit Zolder in Belgium. Because Ercoli was subtracted ten points after the race due to an irregularity in the starting procedure, Hezemans leads the championship after the season opener.