For the fourth time in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series history, a rookie grabbed the title in the EuroNASCAR 2 Championship. The 19-year-old who accomplished this amazing achievement has the right DNA and proved to be one of the raw diamonds in the world of the NWES: Liam Hezemans. The younger brother of two-time EuroNASCAR PRO Champion Loris Hezemans competed for the first time in auto racing and managed to win the championship right away. Besides his amazing pace, the Hendriks Motorsport driver impressed with his open-minded and always positive personality – and his unique hair style.
Lasse Soerensen was the most recent Rookie Trophy contender to win the overall championship back in 2019 and like the Dane had to battle with Giorgio Maggi until the end of the season, Hezemans had to squeeze out every bit of his skills to beat Alberto Naska, who was in the lead in the overall standings all year long except after the last race of the season. The Dutchman always stayed close to the Italian and kept the pressure high. But where does the amazing talent come from?
Hezemans is the son of endurance racing legend Toine Hezemans and brother of Mike and Loris Hezemans, who are both successful race car drivers. Born in the Netherlands with Congolese roots, the Brussels resident started racing go karts in 2017. After competing in national and international championships, Hezemans made his first steps in auto racing in an EuroNASCAR car in 2022. He stepped right in the footsteps of his brother, who won two EuroNASCAR Championships in 2019 and 2021 and made the move to the US to become a NASCAR Cup Series driver.
While getting into racing, Hezemans finished school and started jobbing as a bartender. He also works as a go karting mechanic to improve his technical skills at the race tracks around the world. The 19-year-old is a sports enthusiast and loves to work out in the gym. He also plans to restart playing tennis, a sport he played for about ten years, but a five-year break put some rust on his racket. Hezemans considers himself “a fast learner” and therefore he will for sure be back in the rhythm quite fast.
Adapting quickly to a new environment was the key to success for Hezemans, who joined Hendriks Motorsport in the #50 Ford Mustang. After kicking off the season at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, in sixth place, Hezemans analyzed his performance and made the necessary changes. In the second auto race in his life, the Dutchman stormed to third place to grab his maiden podium in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. From that moment on, all eyes were on the 19-year-old, who impressed his rivals on track.
Another third place on Saturday in the UK at Brands Hatch proved that his performance on Sunday in Valencia wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Just one day later, Hezemans took off for the big swing and scored his maiden EuroNASCAR race win at the Indy Circuit in a brilliant overtime finish. The story repeated in Vallelunga, Italy, where the Dutchman again scored a third place and a victory, while the at that time championship leader Naska experienced a setback after having contact with Hezemans’ teammate Martin Doubek.
Like Naska, Hezemans had one really tough race weekend to swallow: At Autodrom Most in the Czech Republic, the Dutchman never made it into the top-10. Therefore, it was clear that the Hendriks Motorsport driver would drop those two results at the end of the regular season which culminated at his home track: Circuit Zolder in Belgium. The race weekend in the forests of Limburg was the start of an impressive sweep by Hezemans, who was set to fight for the championship win.
Two races, two wins: the event at Circuit Zolder can be described by only four words for Hezemans, who closed the gap on Naska in the overall standings ahead of the EuroNASCAR Finals at Automotodrom Grobnik in Croatia. Only 13 points separated the youngster from Naska, another rookie on the grid in EuroNASCAR 2, heading to the Finals and Hezemans was keen to overtake the Italian on the last meters of the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season. With double points on the line, there was no room for mistakes for both Hezemans and Naska, who suffered from a gearbox failure at Circuit Zolder.
Hezemans continued where he left at Circuit Zolder and beat Naska in the first of two final rounds. The gap reduced to three points and Hezemans needed to win the last race of the season to get past the CAAL Racing driver for the first time in 2022. The Dutchman managed to win the race, while Naska only finished third. Therefore the Hendriks Motorsport driver grabbed the precious EuroNASCAR 2 title and became the Rookie Trophy Champion. He never boasted the red Whelen banner on his windscreen, but he lifted the EuroNASCAR 2 Trophy in the air.
“To have won the championship was of course one of the best moments in my life,” said Hezemans after the Gala in the Kvarner Hotel in Opatjia, Croatia. “It was just so unexpected. When we kicked off the season I found it already crazy that my dad wanted me to drive a EuroNASCAR car as my first ever race car, but apparently he was right to do so. We had some expectations in the beginning of the season as we clearly thought we could be driving for a top-10 and maybe top-5, but winning the championship never came to our mind until that race in Brands Hatch, but it was really after Zolder we knew the title battle was really on.”
Hezemans also looked back at the best memories of his season: “My best moment was definitely Round 4 at Brands Hatch, because we won such an unpredictable one there. The feeling of winning the race in Overtime at my second event ever was just awesome. And of course I have to mention the final race in Croatia where we won the championship! There were just so many emotions coming up when we crossed the finish line! Those were definitely my two best moments of the season.”
Hezemans’ EuroNASCAR 2 Championship win is just the beginning of a dynasty his brother started back in 2018 and there is for sure a lot more to come from the 19-year-old, who will step up to EuroNASCAR PRO in the 2023 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season. The Dutchman has what it takes to keep up with the NWES elite and as he’s a fast learner, all eyes should be on the funny, open and always laughing young Hezemans when the 2023 season will kick off at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia on May 6-7.