In a track where he has won all but one of the races held here, Alon Day once again proves himself to be the most dominant man in Franciacorta. In a dramatic race that saw Day’s teammate Mauro Trione literally going upside-down, the Israeli led all 29 laps from Pole Position on his way to win the third race of the 2019 season ahead of Marc Goossens and Jacques Villeneuve. It was the Israeli’s first win in this season as well as his 18th career win in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
The race started well with the field going through the first two turns relatively cleanly before all hell breaks loose in Turn 3. Alex Caffi gets spun out and as his No. 1 Mustang rolls backwards towards turn 3, Mauro Trione ends up clipping the front-right of Caffi’s car. Trione’s No. 31 CAAL SS hit Caffi’s Mustang at such an angle that the car managed to flip itself, completing nearly three-quarters of a roll before eventually landing back on its roof.
As the Safety Car was called almost immediately after Trione’s car goes for a roll, Salvador Tineo Arroyo in the No. 64 Speedhouse SS clips the rear-left of Ander Vilarino’s No. 48 Mustang in turn 7 after the Arroyo was pushed from behind by Romain Iannetta, creating a chain reaction incident that sends Vilarino’s car for a spin as Henri Tuomaala and Martin Doubek goes to the gravel trap to take an evasive action. Several other cars, such as Dario Caso, also took bodywork damage in this incident.
“Alex Caffi was hit hard in the back and then he spun,” said Trione to the media post-race. “I was not able to avoid him and then I got pushed from behind. I rolled in a very soft way, so the car is not damaged that bad,” added the 55-year old Swiss-Italian driver.
After a lengthy caution to remove Trione’s car from the track, the race would continue with Day in the lead followed by Goossens, Villeneuve, Rocca, and Hezemans. Rocca and Hezemans would begin challenging Villeneuve for P3 for the next few laps, only to be interrupted by Martin Doubek crashing out in lap 10. With Doubek’s car beached in the gravel, this necessitated another Safety Car for marshals to remove the stricken No. 7 Mustang out of the track.
Once the green flag flies again, Day continues to lead the race ahead of Goossens as Rocca and Hezemans continued to try find a way pass Villeneuve to no avail. As the race reaches the last 10 laps, a big battle in the midfield would begin as Christophe Bouchut, Henri Tuomaala, Salvador Tineo Arroyo, Alexander Graff, Thomas Ferrando, Ulysse Delsaux, and Frederic Gabillon were all involved in the battle for P12, with Lucas Lasserre – who is suffering from an ill-handling car all week long – and Sebastian Bleekemolen joining this group as the laps continue to wind down.
On lap 24, Ander Vilarino entered the pits to retire his car, the damage suffered in the first lap incident proved to be too much for the Spaniard to handle. The race proved to be a day to forgot for Racing Engineering as Vilarino’s teammate, Romain Iannetta, had previously retired from the race 3 laps earlier.
“I was hit by a competitor on my left rear and suffered some damage,” said Vilarino to the media. “I was able to gain some spots, but unfortunately the car was unable to continue and I had to retire before the end of the race,” added the 3-time champion, who will lose the championship lead as a result of the retirement.
In the end, it was Alon Day who took the checkered flag in Franciacorta. He finished 1.4 seconds ahead of Marc Goossens, who took his first podium this season and his eleventh podium in his NASCAR Euro career. Jacques Villeneuve was able to hold on for third to score his first podium in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and his first podium in any racing category since 2013. Villeneuve also becomes the first Canadian and the first ex-Formula One driver to score a podium finish in NWES.
“It’s such a wonderful feeling to win again,” said Day post-race. “It was tough for me and the team in Valencia. It wasn’t easy as Marc was there the whole time. I saw him and Jacques in my mirrors all the time. It was an honor to stand on the podium with a Formula One champion. We want to build on this win today and do it again tomorrow,” added Day, who will take the lead in the championship as a result after Race 1.
“It was a physical race on that short track and it was fun,” said Villeneuve to the media post-race. “The fastest lap is important for the grid for the second race. Unfortunately we were faster in the end of the race when the tires weren’t fresh anymore. I was trying to get closer to Marc in case he made a mistake.”
Loris Hezemans would finish in P4 as Luigi Ferrara claimed an impressive fifth place finish in his NASCAR debut. Nicolo Rocca would fall down to sixth after his tires started to fall apart in the later stages of the race, with Gianmarco Ercoli, Stienes Longin, Francesco Sini, and Alex Sedgwick completing the Top 10.
The big midfield battle ultimately was won by Christophe Bouchut, who claimed P11 ahead of Henri Tuomaala, who will claim the Challenger Trophy honors for this race. Alexander Graff finished thirteenth and claimed the 4 bonus points for the most positions gained, with the Swede finishing ahead of Ferrando, Delsaux, Bleekemolen, Lasserre, Gabillon, and Tineo Arroyo. Eric Filgueiras finished P20 in his first NASCAR Euro race despite having a spin on the last corner midway through the race.
Ellen Lohr, the only female driver in the field, would finish in P21 ahead of Japan’s Kenko Miura, while Dario Caso was classified as the last car still running in P23, finishing one lap down after having to make a visit to the pits to fix the first lap collision damage. Simone Laureti, who had to start the race from the pit lane, was classified in P24 as the last retirement of the race.
The results of this race meant that Alon Day would take the lead in the Elite 1 championship. The Israeli is currently 8 points ahead of Stienes Longin, just two points ahead of Loris Hezemans, who is currently sitting as the highest placed driver in the drivers who took part in the Junior Trophy. Nicolo Rocca is in fourth with 95 points, while Vilarino’s DNF would drop him down to fifth. The podium finish scored by Goossens and Villeneuve would see them climb to sixth and eighth respectively in the championship.
NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ Elite 1 class would return to action today for Race 2 of NASCAR GP of Italy in Franciacorta. Just like all the other races, the races will be streamed live in FansChoice.tv, Motorsport.tv, and the official Facebook page and YouTube channel of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, with full race replay available at NWES’ YouTube channel.
Most of the photos shown here are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard, with photos of the roll are courtesy of Nina Weinbrenner from ThreeWide.de.