Alon Day’s continued his domination at Autodromo di Franciacorta as the Israeli once again led from start to finish to sweep the Franciacorta races once again. It was Day’s 19th career win in NWES as well as his fifth win in the Italian track. The win also reinforced his lead in the Elite 1 Drivers Championship as he extends his lead to 15 points from both Stienes Longin and Loris Hezemans.
At the start of the race, Hezemans and Jacques Villeneuve was able to keep Day at bay. However, after Hezemans damaged the front-left bodywork on his car in the early laps of the race, Day would slowly begin to increase his gap. With Hezemans and Villeneuve battling each other for second soon after, this would serve as an opportunity for the 2-time defending champion to open the gap to the field.
After leading by more than 9 seconds at one point, Day would cross the finish line with a gap of 5.647 seconds to Hezemans to score his second win of the 2019 season. Villeneuve finished third to secure a back-to-back podium finish in just his second NASCAR Euro race week.
“Today I was lucky,” said Alon Day in the Victory Lane. “I had a great car, but I knew that without Villeneuve fighting Loris, I wouldn’t be here. So, I knew I was lucky. I realize they were fighting hard, so I knew that’s my time to push as hard as I can to open the gap because they would end their fight and probably Loris will catch me, so I knew I have to open the gap and it works. I’m happy, it’s good to be here again and its my fifth time in the Victory Lane (in Franciacorta), it’s just an amazing feeling.”
For Hezemans, Sunday proved to be a rather thrilling day for the young Dutchman. After breaking his front-left bodywork, he was left with the task of defending the 1997 Formula One World Champion at bay, and despite some arguably over-aggressive attempts of overtaking from Villeneuve, Hezemans was able to hold on to score his second podium of the season and his eighth podium in his Euro Series career.
“Quite happy but also disappointed,” said Hezemans to Mark Werrell post-race. “I think it was on lap 4 or 3 in the fast right-hand kink, I just took a bit too much on the kerb and end up hitting the tire wall and I broke out the left side of my car. From then on, it’s really just trying to survive the attack from Jacques.”
While Villeneuve was a left a bit disappointed with the amount of blocking that Hezemans shown to him, the Canadian would left Franciacorta with a back-to-back finish in just his second NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race week, which was also his first podium in any form of racing since his third-place finish at Trois-Rivières in the 2013 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
“We have a good battle,” said Villeneuve to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “The car is really good in the corners, but I feel the blocking is way too much. If it is were in the States, it would’ve been in the wall within 2 corners. Yeah it’s a bit different (in here compared to the States), but there’s too much blocking going on. Apart from that, the racing was a lot of fun and the car’s good, so the rest of the championship should be fun.”
Stienes Longin would finish in fourth ahead of his teammate Nicolò Rocca, while Ander Vilariño did well to finish sixth after having to start from tenth in what has proved to be a tough weekend for the 3-time champion. Francesco Sini had one of his best races in the career with a charge back to seventh with Lucas Lasserre finishing in eighth to end what has been a poor weekend for the Frenchman in a high note.
“It was a very competitive race,” said Lasserre to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “It was a very difficult race meeting, but we finish with a strong note. It’s not a victory, podium, or a Top 5, but it’s a Top 10. I start nineteenth, it was a very strong race. We made some strong overtakes and clean, so I’m really happy for the guys in the team because we work very hard each day, so it’s a good point for us.”
Romain Iannetta and Alexander Graff would complete the Top 10 as Ulysse Delsaux just misses out from his first Elite 1 Top 10 finish since 2016 by only 1.29 second. Sebastian Bleekemolen crosses the line in twelfth ahead of Salvador Tineo Arroyo, while Ellen Lohr would finish in fourteenth as the last car on the lead lap. The fourteenth-place finish for Ellen would also saw her taking the Challenger Trophy honors for this race.
“From 25th on the grid to 14th, which is a really nice result,” said Ellen to Mark Werrell post-race. “With a bit of luck because others have some failures of course, but it is a nice reward for a hard fighting because we did some hard fighting in yesterday already and also for today. I’m very pleased with this weekend, especially as my comeback weekend after Valencia with the big, huge crash that went so bad. I’m looking forward and this fight, I really have to say, it was exactly the reason why I came to NASCAR.”
Mauro Trione, who joked in the Elite 2 broadcast that he changed his car’s roof color from red to white to prevent bad omens after his heavy start crash at Valencia Race 2 and rolling his car in Saturday’s race, would claim the 4 bonus points for the most positions gained with a fifteenth-place finish despite finishing one lap down. Simone Laureti, who finished two laps down in seventeenth, was the last of the sixteen drivers that were still running at the end of the race.
Christophe Bouchut and Martin Doubek did not take part in Sunday’s race. Bouchut wasn’t able to take part due to a “Safety issue” (allegedly he also walked out from the sport after Saturday’s race), while Doubek failed to start the Sunday race presumably due to the damage that the No. 7 Mustang had in Saturday’s Elite 2 race proved to be unsolvable in Sunday.
The race proved to be a race of attrition as eleven cars failed to make it to the checkered flag. Japan’s Kenko Miura was the first retirement of his race when his No. 2 Camaro broke down in the front straight on lap 6. Frédéric Gabillon’s week would turn from bad to worse after he retired from the race on lap 9, his day is over in the pit lane. Thomas Ferrando is the next retiree after he ran deep into the gravel trap at turn 1 on lap 11, which damaged his No. 27 Caffi Mustang enough to force him to retire in the pit lane.
Luigi Ferrara, who celebrated his birthday on the Sunday race, would not have the best birthday present possible after a puncture in the front-right tire on lap 12 forced him out of the race with a broken suspension, with Eric Filgueiras also retiring from the race on the same lap as Ferrara. Alex Sedgwick then retired in the next lap after the half-shaft in his No. 90 Braxx Camaro broke down as he enters the main straight to start his thirteenth lap.
The drama would continue as Marc Goossens was forced to retire on lap 16, also due to a sudden mechanical failure. The Belgian had been running in fourth all-race long, but the retirement would end his Franciacorta race week in the lowest note possible. The next lap, it was Gianmarco Ercoli and Henri Tuomaala’s turn to retire the race on the pit lane, with Alex Caffi following suit in the following lap. Dario Caso would become the final retirement of the race after his No. 8 Racers Camaro broke down with just 2 laps to go.
In the Drivers Championship, Alon Day, with 147 points, would extend his championship lead to 15 points ahead from both Stienes Longin and Loris Hezemans. Longin and Hezemans are currently tied with 132 points, both Longin was ahead by virtue of tiebreaker – two second places for Longin in comparison to just one second place finish for Hezemans. Nicolò Rocca, with 127 points, and Ander Vilariño, with 123 points, would remain in fourth and fifth respectively in the championship.
Jacques Villeneuve’s double podium finish would left him sat in sixth with 106 points, five points ahead of Marc Goossens and Francesco Sini. Goossens and Sini were tied with 101 points, but Goossens’ podium yesterday would allow him to claim seventh. Alexander Graff is currently in ninth with 99 points, while Lucas Lasserre would complete the Top 10 in the standings with 95 points.
The double-whammy on Frédéric Gabillon’s week would drop him down to twelfth, leaving the Frenchman with a tall order to do if he wants to stay in the championship title hunt. Henri Tuomaala, currently sitting in seventeenth with 80 points, would lead the Challenger Trophy participants leaving Franciacorta.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series would return to action on 1-2 June for the seventh edition of the American SpeedFest at the famed Brands Hatch circuit. All races will be streamed live on FansChoice.tv, Motorsport.tv, and the official Facebook page and YouTube account of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Photos are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.