The first ever NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race at the Autodromo Most provided the fans with a dramatic finish after Loris Hezemans’ engine blew up with four laps to go. Nicolo Rocca inherited the lead and went on to grab his fourth NWES career win – the first of the 2019 season – when the race ended under caution due to the oil left on track by the #50 Mustang.
The Italian started from pole position but had to surrender the lead to Hezemans at the first turn. The Dutchman went on to build a comfortable lead and seemed hard to stop in his quest for his first win of the season but Lady Luck wasn’t on his side: with only four laps to go, the #50 Mustang went up in smoke in turn 1 forcing the Dutchman to retire.
Rocca, who was running second and trying to close the gap, took over the lead and won the race under caution. The PK Carsport driver also won the Junior Trophy classification. The Italian went back to Victory Lane 1386 days after his 2015 round win at Magione, Italy.
"It feels so good to be back in Victory Lane," said Rocca, who posted the fastest lap of the race. "First of all, I’m very sorry for Loris. It was a tough race, we both pushed so hard. It’s a shame that he had to retire early. I could have caught him and then we would have had a nice fight. I will start from pole position tomorrow. Right now, I’m just really happy."
Hezemans’ teammate Giorgio Maggi, who grabbed the pole position in the ELITE 2 Division, will now have to rely on the team’s ability to bring back the #50 Ford Mustang for the ELITE 2 race this afternoon.
"I’m really disappointed, because the car felt great the whole race," said Hezemans. "There were no signs of an engine failure. I came down the straight, hit the brake and shifted normally to third but the engine blew up. We were just unlucky. I hope the guys can fix it, as Giorgio deserves to defend his ELITE 2 championship lead."
Rocca’s teammate Stienes Longin grabbed his fifth second place of 2019. The Belgian edged former ELITE 2 champion Thomas Ferrando, who climbed on the third step of the podium in his debut with CAAL Racing. The Frenchman was second in the Junior Trophy classification.
Both Longin and Rocca dramatically closed the points gap in the ELITE 1 standing from Alon Day, who now leads by just one point on Longin and nine points on Rocca. After a less than ideal start, Day made contact with Jacques Villeneuve – the Canadian also had to bring his Go Fas Racing Chevrolet Camaro to an early stop – and suffered a puncture. Day was penalized for an avoidable collision with the former Formula One champion.
UPDATE: Alon Day received a 10-point penalty for the contact with Villeneuve that brings him down to third in the standings. Longin now leads with eight points on Rocca and nine on Day.
Lucas Lasserre put up a strong performance from sixth on the grid and finished fourth ahead of Sebastiaan Bleekemolen. The Dutchman, for his part, grabbed his first ever Euro NASCAR top-5 at the 4.222-kilometer Autodrom Most and showed a promising pace in his #69 Ford Mustang.
Francesco Sini scored a solid sixth place collecting good points on his way towards the top-10, while Gianmarco Ercoli finished seventh grabbing the last spot on the Junior Trophy podium. Henri Tuomaala, who ended up eighth under the checkered flag, won the Challenger Trophy ahead of Eric De Doncker and Mauro Trione.
Alexander Graff, who fought his way back in the top-10 from 13th, was ninth ahead of three-time NWES champion Ander Vilarino. The Spaniard was coming from 15th of the grid and collected his fifth top-10 result in the 2019 NWES season.
The ELITE 1 Division will be back in action on Sunday for the eighth round of the 2019 season. All races will be streamed live on Fanschoice.tv, the Euro NASCAR YouTube and Facebook channel, Motorsport.tv and a vast network of websites and social media pages around the world.