The championship battle was shuffled up in a dramatic Semi Final 1 at the NASCAR GP Germany. While Hendriks Motorsport’s Loris Hezemans won the third race in a row by edging PK Carsport’s Nicolo Rocca at the end of a grueling 20-lap battle, points leader Stienes Longin had to retire early due to damage to his #11 PK Carsport Chevrolet Camaro.
It was not an easy win for Hezemans at Hockenheim, the track where he celebrated his first NWES career triumph in 2018. After starting from the pole, the Dutchman had to defend his lead from Rocca all race long, but he managed to keep the Italian at bay and take over the championship lead. Hezemans now leads Rocca by 11 points.
"It’s great to keep the momentum we built in the last three races," said the race winner. "I’m happy with the results and it’s double points, so it’s nice to score those too. It was so important to have a good start and clean restarts. The key was to have a good first lap and to manage the gap on Nicolo. It was a tough one, as he was pushing a lot so I had to stay on the limit all race long. I didn’t do any major mistakes and grabbed the win."
Rocca had a good start from third and in the first corner he got together teammate Longin in turn 1. The #11 Camaro went wide and Rocca took over second place, while Longin lost several positions.
A Thomas Ferrando in great shape grabbed his fourth ELITE 1 Division podium by finishing third behind Rocca. The Frenchman also closed the Junior Trophy podium, which mirrored the overall top-3. Racers Motorsport driver Gianmarco Ercoli drove a finally trouble-free race and finished fourth ahead of Jacques Villeneuve, who scored his fourth Euro NASCAR top-5 of the season at the wheel of the #32 Go Fas Racing Chevrolet Camaro.
"It was a good day for us, as we started third and finished second," said Rocca, who’s now the runner-up in the championship battle. "It’s good and very important points. I think I was a little bit quicker than Loris and maybe I should have been a little bit more aggressive, but it was only the first race of the playoffs. I didn’t take too many risks, but I really tried to force Loris into a mistake. That didn’t happen, so I will go for the win tomorrow in the second race."
Drama struck for championship leader Longin on lap 12, when the back of the #11 PK Carsport Camaro was heavily damaged in an incident also involving Day and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen. Longin was forced to go to the pits and saw his championship lead vanish in a matter of seconds. Just one lap later Ander Vilarino parked his #48 Racing Engineering Ford Mustang in a runoff area. The result: Two title contenders suffered a huge setback in the very first race of the playoffs in Germany. Longin is now 37 points behind Hezemans.
Frederic Gabillon was sixth in his #3 RDV Competition Chevrolet ahead of reigning champion Alon Day, who climbed back from twelfth on the grid, and Lucas Lasserre.
Local hero and NWES newcomer Daniel Keilwitz hit trouble in the very first lap of the race. The Mishumotors driver had the worst hand in contact with Vilarino at the hairpin. The German was able to continue after the spin and finished ninth after a strong comeback at the wheel of his #70 Chevrolet Camaro. ELITE 2 champion Ulysse Delsaux closed the top-10.
Racers Motorsport’s Dario Caso won the Challenger Trophy in 13th place ahead of newcomer Ioannis Smyrlis, who was 15th under the checkered flag. The podium was closed by another NWES debutant, Marco Santamaria, who was at the wheel of the new #56 CAAL Racing Chevrolet.
Two cautions slowed the field down, one on lap 2 when Henri Tuomaala was stuck in the gravel and the other on the subsequent restart, when a crash involved, among others, Lorenzo Marcucci, Dylan Derdaele and Mauro Trione.
The ELITE 1 SEMI FINAL 2 will go green at 14:15 CEST on Sunday at the legendary Hockenheimring. The race will be streamed live at Fanschoice.tv, the Euro NASCAR Facebook and YouTube channels, Motorsport.tv and a vast network of websites and social media pages from around the world.
UPDATE: PENALTY REPORT
Following post-race investigations, race control issued the below penalties, resulting in a new top-10: Loris Hezemans, Nicolò Rocca, Thomas Ferrando, Gianmarco Ercoli, Frederic Gabillon, Lucas Lasserre, Daniel Keilwitz, Ulysse Delsaux, Salvador Tineo Arroyo, Francesco Sini. Hezemans’ fastest lap time was disallowed, demoting the Dutchman to second on the grid on Sunday and promoting Day to the pole position.
- #56 Marco SANTAMARIA – Leave the line before crossing control line at the start – Drive Through
- #48 Ander VILARINO – Avoidable collision car # 70 at turn 6 – Drive Through (equivalent add 30 seconds to the elapsed time of the Race)
- #98 Dylan DERDAELE – Avoidable collision car # 23 at turn 13 – Drive Through (equivalent add 30 seconds to the elapsed time of the Race)
- #99 Guilleaume DEFLANDRE – Avoidable collision car # 2 at turn 3 – Drive Through (equivalent add 30 seconds to the elapsed time of the Race)
- #77 Alexander GRAFF – Leave the line before crossing control line at the start – Drive Through
- #31 Mauro TRIONE – Avoidable collision # 41 at turn 5 – Drive Through (equivalent add 30 seconds to the elapsed time of the Race)
- #9 Gianmarco ERCOLI – Force another car (# 32) out the track and win a position – 5 Championship points
- #3 Frederic GABILLON – Overtake car # 9 under Safety Car procedure at turn 13 – 5 Championship points
- #32 Jacques VILLENEUVE – Overtake car # 9 under Safety Car procedure at turn 14 – 5 Championship points
- #69 Sebastiaan BLEEKEMOLEN – Avoidable collision # 64 at turn 6 – Drive through
- #54 Alon DAY – Avoidable collision # 11 at turn 8 – Drive Through (equivalent add 30 seconds to the elapsed time of the Race)
- #50 Loris HEZEMANS – Major infringement non-respect track limits (Race fastest lap time obtained) – Race fastest lap time cancelled