Vittorio Ghirelli is one of the drivers to keep an eye on in the 2021 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season. The 27-year-old stepped up to EuroNASCAR PRO after winning the EuroNASCAR 2 Championship with Hendriks Motorsport in 2020. The Italian is already in the mix and battling with the best drivers of the European NASCAR championship for the big trophy. Recently, the Fasano native competed at the Indy Circuit of Brands Hatch and missed his first EuroNASCAR PRO podium by only one position.
At the wheel of the #50 Hendriks Motorsport Ford Mustang, Ghirelli ended up sixth in Qualifying, which granted him a solid starting position for the first race of the NASCAR GP UK at the 1.94-kilometer Indy Circuit. He had issues with the gearbox that prevented him from scoring an even better result in the qualifying session. In the first race, the Italian made up two positions to finish fourth, 0.203 seconds behind Nicolo Rocca when the checkered flag fell.
“Qualifying was a disaster, because the third gear got stuck four times and that’s why we only ended up sixth on the grid”, Ghirelli said. “Fourth place in the first race was a good start and I was able to battle for a spot on the podium at Brands Hatch. It’s quite hard to overtake here so I did not get past Nicolo during the race.” Ghirelli posted the fourth quickest lap in the race and thus secured the fourth starting position for the second race on Sunday.
The Italian got into third position right after the start of the second race and was on his way onto the podium but then bad luck struck. He ran over an oil track in turn 1 and went wide. Several other drivers overtook Ghirelli and he found himself down in sixth, where he finished the race. He said: “There was nothing I could do. I lost control of the car and three positions. In the end, I finished sixth. This weekend was very unfortunate and I missed out on a podium finish we would have deserved.”
After the NASCAR GP UK, Ghirelli sits in fourth of the overall EuroNASCAR PRO standings, 27 points shy of championship leader Loris Hezemans, who is also racing for Hendriks Motorsport. His solid results keep him right in the mix of this first season in the top tier championship of European NASCAR racing. Ghirelli thinks he could have even shown better performance.
“Last year’s EuroNASCAR 2 season went very well and we already knew back then that I have the pace to keep up with the front runners in EuroNASCAR PRO,” said Ghirelli. “The first two race weekends were unfortunate as we had to deal with some technical issues and a lot of bad luck. I couldn’t really show my full potential yet! The level is much higher in this championship and there is no room for mistakes – everything has to run perfect. I’m confident that things will turn around and we will get the wins we deserve. I’m not fully happy with fourth place but I’m sure we will get there where we belong.”
Ghirelli’s next chance to step on the EuroNASCAR PRO podium and battle for his maiden win in EuroNASCAR’s premier class will be at Autodrom Most. The NASCAR GP of the Czech Republic will take place on August 28-29 and Ghirelli will work hard to make his way into the top-3. Qualifying and all races will be broadcasted live on EuroNASCAR’s social media platforms – YouTube, Facebook, Twitch – and Motorsport.tv.
All photos by NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese