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A first in Euro NASCAR history: Manami Kobayashi wins in ELITE Club debut

History was made in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series ELITE Club Division at the Hockenheimring in the opening day of the 2019 American Fan Fest. Two female drivers topped the ELITE Club podium at the end of an extremely close battle for the best lap time in the regularity based division.

Manami Kobayashi came out the winner by lapping just 0.001 seconds from the reference time in what was not only her first time in the Series, but also her very first time on the NWES car.

Featuring plenty of racing experience in GTs and touring cars, Kobayashi is not new to the NWES paddock because of her relationship with series veteran Kenko Miura. She adapted quickly to the 400 hp Euro NASCAR car and clinched the victory over Alina Loibnegger, who also missed the set time by 0.001 in the first session, by just one point thanks to a better second closest lap time.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Alex Caffi Motorsport’s Kobayashi after the race. “In the beginning I had a lot of respect for the car. It was hard to handle because of the power, but after some laps my respect turned into excitement. I’m very happy about my first win in the ELITE Club Division.”

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Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Gianpaolo Longhin

Loibnegger, who is an ELITE Club regular, gave her best at the wheel of the #66 Dexwet-Df1 Racing Chevrolet Camaro. The Austrian had previous knowledge of Hockenheim thanks to a test in a touring car earlier this year, but driving a Euro NASCAR car was a completely different challenge and she came out of it with her first career podium.

“It felt so amazing to be on the podium here at Hockenheim”, said Loibnegger. “I’m so happy about this second place, I really cannot stop smiling. I did a test here at Hockenheim in a touring car before, which was a lot of fun, but driving a Euro NASCAR car here at this track is a completely different world. The old-school feeling is amazing and a unique experience for a race car driver.”

Alan Mosqueron rounded out the podium by finishing third behind his teammate Loibnegger, thus bringing two Dexwet-Df1Racing drivers on the podium. Championship leader Giovanni Trione ended up fourth and defended his points lead because 2017 champion Andreas Kuchelbacher suffered a mechanical problem to his car and didn’t score enough points.

In the championship standings Trione now leads Kuchelbacher and Mosqueron, who both have 199 markers in their pockets, by eight points.

The championship battle of the ELITE Club Division will be decided on October 5-6 at the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series finals at the famous Circuit Zolder in Belgium.

ELITE CLUB RESULTS

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Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard