NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

Simon Pilate: “I really could do this for the rest of my life”

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

Belgian youngster Simon Pilate reflects on his first EuroNASCAR season – an experience that he thoroughly enjoyed

In 2020, Simon Pilate was among a handful of young drivers that debuted in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES). The 18-year-old Belgian had earned himself a spot in NWES alongside FEED Racing team owners Patrick Lemarie and Jacques Villeneuve by reaching the semi-finals of the 2019 FEED driver academy.

At the dusk of the 2020 season, Pilate has now not only debuted in the EuroNASCAR 2 championship as originally planned. From the third race weekend in Croatia onwards, the youngster even took on double duties to replace Patrick Lemarie in the EuroNASCAR PRO championship.

Despite the sudden move into the PRO championship, Pilate adapted well and was able to deliver a top-10 result right away by finishing seventh in the second race at Automotodrom Grobnik (Croatia). 

Having completed the full EuroNASCAR 2 campaign in the #6 FEED Vict Racing machine, the young Belgian has also proven himself. He finished the season in eighth position overall, with one top-5 and six top-10 finishes to his name. In the championship’s Rookie Trophy, Pilate just missed out on the rostrum by finishing fourth overall behind American hopeful Julia Landauer. 

From a difficult start to the season to three Rookie Trophy podiums

Pilate (right) on the Rookie Trophy podium in Zolder – Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

“I am very happy about my performance and so are Patrick and Jacques”, Pilate sums up his freshman year in the NWES in his chat with ‘Leadlap.net’. “I achieved the objectives of this year. It’s a bit hard that I had so many technical problems in the beginning because in the end I had 4 DNFs. I think that I could have maybe fought for the top 5 of the championship without the DNFs. But that’s motorsport and it won’t change anything to look back.”

“After all I still came back and finished 8th overall and 4th in the rookie classification. I’m also the highest ranked Belgian, so I am really happy considering that I was back in 15th position after Vallelunga. So in the end I came back stronger and finished with a total of three rookie podiums! So yes, I am happy for my first ever year in motorsports in general”, the Belgian rookie concluded.

The virtue of Villeneuve’s and Lemarie’s experience

But what experience did Pilate take from his first full year in motorsports, having been taken under the wings of former F1 champion Villeneuve and Lemarie?

“It honestly felt so great! It was an amazing experience and I really could do this for the rest of my life. With that type of love and passion for this sport I always want more. I learned so much throughout this year, it’s amazing. Patrick and Jacques have so much experience that I can ask anything and they will always have an answer to help. They really helped to develop my skills throughout this year and I could really see my progression.”

“On track I think that we could see I was performing better in qualifying than in race. But at the end of the season, I really made a step forward in the races in which I always managed to keep or gain positions. Valencia was hard for us, we didn’t find a good setup. But in the races there I was always able to find my way out. It resulted in my best performance of the year with a 4th place.”

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

“I always stay positive and I try to push doors open where I can”

Following an eventful debut season in EuroNASCAR, Pilate already looks ahead to 2021, always looking to keep improving himself: “I took this season as an opportunity to workout everyday, to work and reflect on my mental power. I got into Esports, by participating in the virtual 24h of Le Mans for example.”

“Also, I look for opportunities to race in other categories. I think what is hardest now is the search for sponsors for next year. But I always stay positive and I try to push doors open where I can.”

It is yet to be confirmed whether Pilate and FEED Vict Racing will continue together in the 2021 NWES season, which is scheduled to kick off in Valencia (Spain) on April 17-18.