The EuroNASCAR 2 Championship of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is not only dedicated to young talent and promising newcomers but also to gentlemen drivers who want to race at a high level in the best European touring car series. The 2022 Legend Trophy Champion for drivers aged 40 and more is Melvin de Groot from the Netherlands. The 45-year-old race car driver joined the series as a part-time driver back in 2021 and went for a strong first full-time campaign in 2022. With five top-5, eight top-10 finishes and a seventh place overall, the Team Bleekemolen driver was among the best drivers in the series.
De Groot is not unknown in motorsports as the Dutchman competed in a variety GT and Touring Car races in his career. With several race wins on his tally, the Dutchman joined NWES with a vast and diverse background and used all his experience to adapt to EuroNASCAR’s 400hp cars without any electronic driving aids. Connecting “fun and performance” is the goal of de Groot, who aims to win a EuroNASCAR race in the future. But who’s the 45-year-old who beat the veterans in his first full year of NASCAR racing in the Legend Trophy?
The businessman has a lot of work to do as he owns a paper recycling company with plants in the Benelux states and the UK. Shipping more than 25,000 containers per year worldwide takes a lot of time for de Groot as he personally manages the business. In addition, his family is running a winery in the South of France producing 500,000 bottles of wine per year – mostly rosé. Despite being a busy man, de Groot finds the time to go racing, playing golf, go hunting and doing water sports. The Dutchman enjoys life and always has a smile on his face. He’s also supporting his kids, who started karting in their home country to continue the de Groot tradition in racing.
The season of the Dutchman started strong: with an eighth and a tenth place in Valencia, he scored two Legend Trophy wins right away. A third consecutive victory in the special classification followed in the UK, where he ended up fifth overall to grab his first top-5 result of the season. Despite having to split the victories with Claudio Cappelli at Brands Hatch, de Groot was already leading the Legend Trophy ranks with a big margin but the battle for the win was set to become closer and closer.
Another win at the Autodromo di Vallelunga in Italy underlined de Groot’s title ambitions but Yevgen Sokolovskiy was on his heels. The Ukrainian won Sunday’s race in Rome and took two more Legend Trophy victories at Autodrom Most while de Groot had to skip the Czech event for personal reasons and dropped the two zeroes in the regular season. Like in Italy, de Groot and Sokolovskiy finished first in the Legend Trophy classification in Belgium once each. The Dutchman and the Marko Stipp Motorsport driver were close in the standings but Sokolovskiy’s decision to skip the finale to join the FIA Motorsport Games to support his country took the Ukrainian out of the battle.
De Groot needed two solid races at Automotodrom Grobnik in Croatia to grab the title. With double points on the line and two more overall top-5 finishes at the Croatian Riviera, the Dutchman secured the title to become the ninth different Legend Trophy Champion in the history of EuroNASCAR. With ten Legend Trophy wins, de Groot is already fourth in the historical wins counter behind two-time champion Alain Grand (11), three-time champion Jerry de Weerdt (14) and one-time champion Eric de Doncker (17). With another strong year with Team Bleekemolen in the #69 Ford Mustang, de Groot could reach the top and become the winningest gentlemen driver in history.
“It’s important to know that it takes a while to get to know the car and adapt to it,” said de Groot. “We are improving the car and I think we are slowly getting there. In the last few races we became more and more competitive so I hope to fight for the overall podium positions next year and not only for wins in the Legend Trophy. Winning the EuroNASCAR 2 Legend Trophy is nice for me and the team but we want to compete for the overall win! It will not be easy next year but a top-5 result is realistic. The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is just fantastic. After 28 years of non-stop racing I was thinking about stopping but this championship brought back the joy and my job in a race car. It’s just amazing.”
De Groot is planning to be back in the 2023 NWES season to defend his title and battle for strong results with Team Bleekemolen led by Sebastiaan and his father Michael Bleekemolen, who will turn 74 in the coming season. The Dutchman will work hard in winter to be in top form when the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series opens a new year of pure racing on May 6-7 at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain. Age is just a number and de Groot cannot be ruled out in the battle for overall wins in EuroNASCAR’s most unpredictable championship. Keep an eye on the fast gentleman from the Netherlands.