The start of 2019 NASCAR GP of Italy Elite 1 Race 2

The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series returns to action last week for the second round of the 2019 season at Autodromo di Franciacorta. In the Elite 1 class, it was Alon Day who once again dominates the field at Franciacorta as he sweeps the weekend to claim the top spot in the Drivers Championship. Jacques Villeneuve becomes the first Canadian and ex-Formula One driver to score a podium finish in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, while Mauro Trione becomes just the fourth driver to flip his NASCAR Euro car after a collision with Alex Caffi in Saturday’s Race.

As we are waiting for Round 3 at Brands Hatch in around 3 weeks’ time, we’re collecting some of the words that the drivers say after the races at Franciacorta to see how they react towards what has happened at Franciacorta.

Alon Day in the Victory Lane after winning Sunday's Race 2

Alon Day – No. 54 CAAL Racing

Alon Day sweeps the weekend at Franciacorta once again as he cements his reputation as the king of Franciacorta with 5 wins out of 6 races held in the Italian track so far. Here’s what Day had to say to series commentator Mark Werrell after Sunday’s race:

“This time it was much harder,” said the current championship leader. “Since the beginning, Loris (Hezemans) was there the whole time. Fortunately, (Jacques) Villeneuve was super strong and they had to fight. The moment I realized they are fighting, I knew that’s the time to open up the biggest gap as we can, and that’s what I did. I think I open up around 8 or 9 seconds just because they fight, and the moment Loris was alone, he was closing the gap really quick. He will probably catch me really soon, but I’m happy. I was lucky this time, I can’t really say anything else. I was just lucky this time.”

Loris Hezemans at Sunday's Race, with the front-left bodywork damage that would hamper his progress

Loris Hezemans – No. 50 Hendriks Motorsport

Hezemans once again had a strong week, with the Dutchman narrowly missing the podium in Race 1 and scoring a second-place finish in Race 2, having perhaps the best car in Race 2 despite some bodywork damage on the front-left side of his No. 50 Mustang and battling hard with Jacques Villeneuve for most of the race. Here’s what Hezemans had to say to Mark Werrell after Sunday’s race:

“Quite happy but also disappointed,” said Hezemans. “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.

I really had to fight tooth and nail every lap trying to keep him behind us, so it was a really hard fight for both me and him, but I feel we gave the fans a good spectacle. I think it was sometimes on the limit a bit for both of us, but that’s what racing is about. That’s what Euro NASCAR is about, so I’m happy about that.”

Jacques Villeneuve sprays the champagne after Saturday's podium finish

Jacques Villeneuve – No. 32 Go Fas Racing

Villeneuve’s weekend can only be described as fantastic. After taking a surprising third place result in Qualifying, he would then translate the strong Qualifying results into a double podium finish in the Race. The podium finishes meant that Villeneuve becomes the first Canadian driver and first ex-Formula One driver to score a podium finish in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. Here’s what Villeneuve had to say to Mark Werrell after Sunday’s race:

“We have a good battle,” said Villeneuve. “The car was really good in the corners, but for me the blocking (from Hezemans) is way too much. Had this is been 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.”

The No. 12 Solaris Motorsport Camaro in action on Sunday

Francesco Sini – No. 12 Solaris Motorsport

The recently-married Francesco Sini enjoyed a good weekend at Franciacorta, as a double Top 10 finish would saw him climb up to eighth place in the Drivers Championship heading to Brands Hatch. Here’s what Sini had to say after the race in an interview with Automobili Sport:

“It has been a very positive weekend, we grew up session after session. Almost everything went in the proper way,” said the 38-year old Italian. “We entered in Superpole and we conquered two Top 10’s. Race 2 was great, with a competitive and solid pace as the top drivers. For sure we have to improve the qualifying in order to start in a better position but finally I enjoyed the racing weekend!

I fought, I did some overtakes, I defended my position and I gained some spots. Probably, considering the fact we have 30 Pro drivers on the grid, this was the best race since we came in NASCAR. The growth of the team is demonstrated also by Naveh (Talor) and his performances. He’s growing a lot and quickly, gaining important points in each race. Last year in Brands Hatch we reached the podium, fingers crossed…”

Lucas Lasserre prepares himself for Sunday's Race

Lucas Lasserre – No. 33 Mishumotors

After becoming the only man to dethrone Alon Day in Franciacorta last year thanks to Day’s encumbered victory, Lucas Lasserre did not have the best weekend at Franciacorta this time around. His No. 33 Tigha Camaro struggled for pace all-week long, but after only finishing in P17 in Saturday’s race, he would end his week in a strong note after attrition would saw him climb up to eighth place in Sunday’s race. Here’s what Lasserre had to say to Mark Werrell after Sunday’s race:

“It was a very competitive race,” said Lasserre. “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.

Franciacorta is a tight track and it’s difficult, you only had one lane, it’s difficult to overtake. I don’t know why, but I’m confident. I like this track, I like the Autodromo, and I won last year. I think all my races here was good, so I’m a little bit frustrated sincerely because each day you want more, but in the end the car’s come out clean and now it’s just important to why qualifying was so difficult, why Race 1 was so difficult and in Race 2 it was really better despite having fresh tires in qualifying. It’s important to understand why.”

Ellen Lohr stands on top of the Challenger Trophy drivers at Sunday's Race

Ellen Lohr – No. 99 Dexwet DF1 Racing

After her first NASCAR Euro race week was cut short due to a heavy accident at the start of Race 2 in Valencia, the 54-year old German was able to rebound last week. Despite being involved in the Caffi-Trione incident, Ellen was able to keep her No. 99 Camaro clean in both races, with heavy attrition in Race 2 would saw her finish in fourteenth to claim the Challenger Trophy honors in Sunday’s race. Here’s what Ellen had to say to Mark Werrell after Sunday’s race:

“From 25th on the grid to 14th, which is a really nice result,” said Ellen. “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.

It has been a very good weekend for the team. We won the Elite 2 yesterday (on Saturday) with Lasse Sorensen and we also scored in fourth and fifth place. Today, another podium for Lasse and the Challenger Trophy. Yes it’s not the overall, but it’s nice. It’s always nice being on the top of the podium, so yeah, it went really well for us.”

Alex Caffi and Kenko Miura before Saturday's Elite 1 Race

Alex Caffi – No. 1 Alex Caffi Motorsport

Alex Caffi’s return to on-track action proved to be a tough one, as the first lap incident with Mauro Trione in Saturday and a mechanical issue in Sunday forced him to retire from both races. Here’s what Caffi had to say to Erregi Media after the races at Franciacorta, with credits to Automobili Sport for providing the translations for Caffi’s interview to Erregi Media:

“It wasn’t the weekend we wanted,” said Caffi. “We knew that compared to Valencia the Franciacorta track would be difficult, especially with backward starting positions, and having struggled in qualifying the two races were certainly more challenging. When you find yourself starting from the middle of the group, the pitfalls are many, the contacts are much more frequent, and in fact we have suffered this condition that has marked the overall performance.”

Mauro Trione and Alex Caffi after the start line incident at Saturday's Elite 1 Race 1

Mauro Trione – No. 31 CAAL Racing

Mauro Trione certainly had an interesting weekend at Franciacorta, especially with him being unlucky enough to end up upside-down in Saturday’s race after only just three corners. However, with the help of heavy attrition, he managed to keep his car clean in Sunday’s race to finish in P15 and claim the 4 bonus championship points for most positions gained in Sunday’s race.

Here’s some of the highlights of what the 55-year old Swiss-Italian driver had to say in the Sunday Elite 2 race broadcast about his Saturday flip, which includes him jokingly saying that the crashes has increased his popularity in the series so far:

“What happened yesterday (in Saturday’s race) was really, really unlucky,” said Trione in the live broadcast. “Because it’s the second crash in two races. With my friend Alex Caffi, we had a good start, passing some of our competitors and Alex was hit in the back from his teammate Kenko (Miura), so it was not a friendly meeting afterwards in the track, but we were unlucky because I almost passed him on the left, but my back wheel got stuck with his front wheel that was in the wrong position, and the car just went upside down. I think I will change the color of my roof now because after the crash in Valencia with Ellen, I think red is the wrong one. So, we’ll stay with the white (roof).

The reality is that I’m still in the back, I still do some mistakes, I need to get some speed. (But) I want my fan to remember me, so I’m looking for a big crash. Valencia was a nice experience, I got a lot of followers after that crash, and Ellen loves me, she was looking for me. Also, when I roll over and I found Ellen just below my car, so it’s a way to be visible.”

Photos are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.

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