Two Italian drivers were the victors in the Legend Trophy in the NASCAR GP Czech Republic. After climbing two podiums in Spain and the UK, Roberto Benedetti finally visited the top step of the podium in Round 7 with a dominating performance in the special classification for drivers aged 40 and over. Benedetti came close to a repeat in Round 8, but he wasn’t able to match the pace of Claudio Cappelli. The latter mastered the wet conditions at Autodrom Most and took home the victory to extend his advantage in the special classification’s standings.
Benedetti has experienced numerous setbacks in the first half of the season. A DNS in Brands Hatch and an early retirement in Italy left the CAAL Racing driver with a significant deficit from the leaders. The mixed weather conditions at Most were a blessing for Benedetti as he took advantage of the evolving track surface to lead the Legend Trophy competitors during Qualifying. He translated this result into a victory in Round 7, his first Legend Trophy win of the season. He finished tenth overall and won the special classification by 15 seconds ahead of teammate Sven van Laere despite receiving a penalty for a false restart.
Benedetti’s pace was good in both dry and wet conditions, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to beat Claudio Cappelli on Sunday. Saturday’s action was a frustrating one for Cappelli, who threw away a possible victory in Round 7 with a spin that triggered a late Full Course Yellow. The Race Art Technology driver bounced back in Round 8 with his first overall top-5 finish of the season. The Italian with his famous long beard was one of the fastest drivers in the rain and despite another spin while chasing Paul Jouffreau and Gil Linster for the final position on the overall podium, he held on to win the Legend Trophy by 23 seconds from Benedetti. He now sits seventh overall in the standings with 215 points, 21 points ahead of his closest rival in the Legend Trophy, Michael Bleekemolen.
In addition to a first-time winner of the season, the NASCAR GP Czech Republic also saw several drivers take their first podiums in 2023. Van Laere took advantage of late race problems from top contenders such as Cappelli, Bleekemolen and Melvin de Groot to finish second in the Legend Trophy on Round 7. The 11th place overall was also the best result in his NWES career so far for the Belgian. One who nearly tied his own best result was Matthias Hauer, who finished twelfth – just one position worse than in 2022 – behind Benedetti and van Laere to close out the podium in Legend Trophy on Saturday.
Despite not finishing on the podium, Bleekemolen continues to be the closest driver to Cappelli in the overall Legend Trophy rankings. Riccardo Romagnoli also stays in third having narrowly missed out on the podium in Round 8. He was beaten to the top-3 spot by de Groot, who was on the verge of winning the Legend Trophy in Round 7 when hometown hero Martin Doubek made contact with him on the penultimate lap. The contact sent the reigning Legend Trophy champion into the tire barriers, causing Doubek to serve a hefty post-race penalty for this incident.
Van Laere is fourth on the Legend Trophy rankings, banking on his consistency and perfect finishing record in his debut season. Benedetti’s victory promoted him up to fifth ahead of Arianna Casoli and de Groot. Paolo Valeri remains in eighth place after he collected important points at Most. Hauer’s first podium of the season moves him ahead of Speedhouse teammate Eric Quintal, who completes the top-10 positions. Dario Caso, Kenko Miura, Olivier Bec, Olivier Panagiotis, Gordon Barnes and Cesare Balistreri close out the list of contenders in the special classification.
The drivers in Legend Trophy will face a new challenge on September 23-24 when EuroNASCAR will visit the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben for the first time. This will set the stage for the return of the NASCAR GP Germany, which was last held in 2019. All qualifyings and races will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and various television services around the world.
Featured image by NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Nina Weinbrenner