Just six points separated the top-2 in the battle for the Junior Trophy, the special classification for drivers aged 25 and under in EuroNASCAR PRO, in the 2023 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season. At the end of twelve thrilling races, 2022 EuroNASCAR 2 Champion Liam Hezemans took the crown ahead of two-time race winner Tobias Dauenhauer. The Hendriks Motorsport driver finished second in the final race of the season, while Dauenhauer took the overall victory. However, the Dutchman’s strong finishes throughout the 2023 season kept him atop the points standings.
Hezemans joined the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2022 and won the EuroNASCAR 2 Championship as a rookie in the final race in Croatia against another phenomenal debutant: Alberto Naska. The 2023 Junior Trophy win is already his third trophy in two years of racing, as he can add the cup to the 2022 EuroNASCAR 2 Championship trophy as well as that year’s Rookie Trophy prize. Hezemans shared the #50 Toyota Camry with Gil Linster, and both drivers were coached by two-time EuroNASCAR PRO Champion Loris Hezemans, who attended the majority of the 2023 NWES events.
1st: Liam Hezemans (384 points)
Hezemans kicked off the season with a phenomenal first EuroNASCAR PRO win at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia. But for the remainder of the regular season, the Dutchman couldn’t find the consistency to become a factor in the overall title hunt. Problems in some races made him stumble down the order, but with double points on the line at the finale, Hezemans got back into the mix at what is considered his home track: Circuit Zolder.
In the first race on Saturday, Hezemans finished eighth. And with Dauenhauer in fourth, his lead in the overall standings melted to 16 points over the German. The latter won the final race of the season on Sunday, but Hezemans did enough to defend his lead in the special classification. He finished second and won the battle for the Junior Trophy by just six points. The Dutchman also finished fifth overall in a solid first full-time EuroNASCAR PRO season, impressing many with his strong performances.
2nd: Tobias Dauenhauer (-6)
Dauenhauer missed the season opener at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Spain, but thanks to the dropped results at the end of the regular season, he was able to get rid of those two zeros. This meant that the German had no margin for error in the remaining rounds, and he was also starting with a brand new team: Patrick Brenndörfer’s Bremotion. The German organization quickly found its feet in the NWES, and started to collect good results right away. The progress and development culminated in the first EuroNASCAR PRO race win for Dauenhauer and the team at the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben, the home race for both driver and organization.
Dauenhauer came into the EuroNASCAR Finals with a small chance of winning the Junior Trophy, but even winning Sunday’s race wasn’t enough to beat Hezemans, who would have to finish fifth or worse for Dauenhauer to snatch the title. Still, the 25-year-old is proud of his achievements with Bremotion and hopes to continue with the team so that they can continue building on the momentum they gained in the second half of the season. A second place in the Junior Trophy and a sixth place in the overall standings are perhaps just the beginning of a journey that Dauenhauer and Bremotion want to take together.
3rd: Ulysse Delsaux (-39)
For Ulysse Delsaux, the 2023 NWES season was his last chance to win the Junior Trophy title as he will not be eligible for the special classification in 2024. Having led the Junior Trophy ranks after the rounds in Italy and Czech Republic, the Speedhouse driver came up short in the end, but the Frenchman still showed good progress over the twelve races. The 2018 EuroNASCAR 2 Champion scored a total of nine top-10 results and made another step forward in the elite championship of European NASCAR racing.
At the Circuit Zolder, Delsaux was already confirmed for the 2024 season by team owner Lucas Lasserre, who finished second in the EuroNASCAR PRO standings. Lasserre has confidence in Delsaux’s skills and character, and the French organization is looking forward to continuing the good work and taking another step forward next season. Delsaux has found a comfortable home at Speedhouse and has his sights set on the overall championship in 2024.
Featured image by NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Nina Weinbrenner