Thomas Ferrando clinched his first ever NASCAR Whelen Euro Series ELITE 1 Division win at Circuit Zolder by leading all 18 laps of ELITE 1 Final 1 at the wheel of his #27 CAAL Racing Ford Mustang. The Frenchman edged Marc Goossens and Stienes Longin. Title contender Nicolo Rocca was involved in a multi-car crash at the start and had to retire while points leader Loris Hezemans ended up fifth and put his hands on the Euro NASCAR title.
The very first corner of ELITE 1 Final 1 at Circuit Zolder turned out to be a crucial moment in the 2019 NWES season. A contact involving several cars sent Iannetta, Gabillon and Longin spinning, while other cars were collected in the crash. Ander Vilarino had no chance to dodge Rocca and crashed into his back bumper. The Italian had to retire without completing a single lap and saw his title hopes crushed in a matter of seconds.
After the restart with twelve laps to go, Ferrando and Goossens battled for the lead ahead of Longin. While Ferrando grabbed his first ever ELITE 1 Division win by 0.128 seconds, returning to Victory Lane for the first time since clinching the ELITE 2 title back in 2017, Longin didn’t manage to overtake Goossens for second place. The Frenchman also topped the Junior Trophy classification.
"This was an amazing job done by the CAAL Racing guys, because the car had a problem the ELITE 2 Division qualifying and they fixed in a very short time," said 22-year-old Ferrando. "It was a great race and I hoped to have Fred [Gabillon] with me on the podium. Maybe we will see this tomorrow. I’m really happy and I thank everyone in my team and my sponsor Knauf. It’s so awesome to win my first ever ELITE 1 Division race."
Ferrando is the second former ELITE 2 champion to win a race in the NWES top division after Giamarco Ercoli’s win at Brands Hatch in 2018. The Italian ended up fourth today and second in the Junior Trophy classification.
Hezemans took no risks and managed to stay out of trouble all race long. The Dutchman finished fifth overall and third in the Junior Trophy classification, coming one fundamental step closer to the 2019 Euro NASCAR title.
"Tomorrow it’s all about finishing the race," said Hezemans after the race. "I have a pretty good gap right now, but it’s important to see that checkered flag. My goal is to finish somewhere where I start. Even if I lose some positions it doesn’t matter. It’s all about winning the title tomorrow, but it seems that the conditions will not be easy as there is a lot of rain in the forecast!"
Alon Day carved his way up the ranks from twelfth to sixth ahead of Alex Sedgwick, Guillaume Deflandre, Dylan Derdaele and Ander Vilarino, who closed the top-10.
Dario Caso grabbed the Challenger Trophy win ahead of points leader Henri Tuomaala, who suffered heavy damage in the first lap crash. The Finn was able to continue and finished 16th right behind Caso. Mauro Tione rounded out the Challenger Trophy podium.
With the fastest lap in Final 1, Jacques Villeneuve earned himself the pole position for Sunday’s last race of the 2019 season. The Canadian will start alongside Alon Day on the first row of the grid.
The ELITE 1 Final 2 will be streamed live on Sunday at 15:15 CET on Fanschoice.tv, the NWES 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 Challenger Trophy podium: Henry Tuomaala won ahead of Mauro Trione and Dario Caso. Jacques Villeneuve lost 10 championship points.
- #8 Dario CASO – Causing an avoidable collision # 23 at turn 5 and win a position – Drive Through (this penalty has been increased because the driver was under probation)
- #32 Jacques VILLENEUVE – Causing an avoidable collision # 7 at turn 1 – 10 Championship points