The ninth edition of the popular American SpeedFest kicked off on Friday with the roaring thunder of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series V8 beasts at the 1.944 kilometer Indy Circuit of Brands Hatch. Frederic Gabillon and Alberto Naska were the fastest drivers after two practice sessions in each championship – EuroNASCAR PRO and EuroNASCAR 2. While Gabillon clocked the fastest lap in the first EuroNASCAR PRO session, Naska set the pace in the second EuroNASCAR 2 practice.
EuroNASCAR PRO: RDV Competition back in the mix?
Gabillon is a true Brands Hatch expert as he holds the track’s Qualifying record. The Frenchman again proved to be extremely fast at the technical six-turn track in Great Britain that is characterized by its steep and massive elevation changes. Driving the #3 RDV Competition Chevrolet Camaro, Gabillon topped the standings with a stellar 48.960-lap he clocked in Free Practice 1.
In both sessions, Gabillon set the pace with phenomenal laps at the Indy Circuit. Reigning EuroNASCAR 2 Champion Martin Doubek ended up second, just 0.153 seconds shy of the Frenchman on top of the standings and led the Challenger Trophy ranks. He was followed by three-time NWES Champion Alon Day in third. The Israeli is looking for a fifth win at Brands Hatch that would tie Ander Vilarino’s all-time record.
CAAL Racing’s Gianmarco Ercoli clocked the fourth fastest lap of the combined result, while Valencia race winner Nicolo Rocca rounded out the top-5 that were separated by a mere 0.310 seconds. Patrick Lemarie was sixth ahead of Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, Valencia pole sitter Alexander Graff and EuroNASCAR PRO newcomer Liam Hezemans who is pulling double duties at Brands Hatch as he jumps in for the sidelined Tobias Dauenhauer.
The Dutchman also led the standings in the Junior Trophy for drivers aged 25 and under but he went off track and hit the barrier in Free Practice 2. Max Lanza completed the top-10 and took second place in the Challenger Trophy ranks.
Brands Hatch is famous for close racing and with 17 drivers within one second, Qualifying on Saturday morning promises a tight battle for the desired Pole Award in the UK. The first session came to an early end after Fabrizio Armetta spun in the challenging Paddock Hill Bend, ending up in the gravel.
EuroNASCAR 2: Naska carries momentum
After scoring his maiden EuroNASCAR 2 win during his first ever NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race weekend in Valencia, Naska confirmed his strong pace at the tricky Brands Hatch Circuit. The Italian spent most of the second session tied for the lead with Vladimiros Tziortzis, but then the Italian clocked a 49.154s on his 21st lap. He finished the day 0.218 seconds quicker than Academy Motorsport / Alex Caffi Motorsport driver Tziortzis, who also stepped on top of the podium in Spain.
By leading the combined results in Free Practice Naska also took first place in the Rookie Trophy ranks while former EuroNASCAR 2 Champion Ulysse Delsaux secured third place – 0.270s off the leader. Liam Hezemans, who topped the first practice session, followed in fourth ahead of CAAL Racing’s Gil Linster.
Reigning Champion Doubek was sixth, besting Rookie Trophy contender Leonardo Colavita in seventh. Claudio Cappelli ended up eighth while Christian Malcharek and Melvin de Groot closed the top-10. The latter, driving the #69 Team Bleekemolen Ford Mustang, also took first in the Legend Trophy ranks. Aliyyah Koloc was the fastest female driver in 13th place, securing the top spot in the Lady Trophy classification.
Several incidents caused red flags over the two 30-minute sessions. In Free Practice 1 Malcharek and Matthias Hauer got off track in Paddock Hill Bend and both got themselves stuck in the gravel trap. Luli Del Castello damaged the back of her car in a crash in the closing stages of the first session. In Free Practice 2, Yevgen Sokolovskiy lost control of his Chevrolet Camaro in the roller coaster drop like turn 1 which red flagged the session with 5 minutes to go.
The NASCAR GP UK 2022 will be back in action on Saturday morning. Qualifying and all races will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR.com, the NWES YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV services from around the world.
Featured image by NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese