The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series returns this week for the American SpeedFest, the third round of the 2019 season. Held on the 1.929 km long Indy Circuit layout of the legendary Brands Hatch circuit, American SpeedFest has been a staple of the Euro Series calendar, with Brands Hatch being the only track to have been in the calendar in all seasons of the Euro Series after the series received official NASCAR sanctioning status in 2012.
For the Elite 1 class last year, it was Frédéric Gabillon who scored his first win of the 2018 season after winning the Saturday race, while a post-race penalty for Marc Goossens due to causing an avoidable incident gave Francesco Sini and Solaris Motorsport scored their first ever Euro Series podium. This was then followed by Gianmarco Ercoli snapping a two-and-a-half-year winless streak to earn his first Elite 1 victory on Sunday, the first time in Euro Series’ history that an Elite 2 alumnus have scored a race win in Elite 1.
This year, 28 drivers are set to compete to claim the award of becoming the King of Brands Hatch for the seventh edition of the American SpeedFest. With plenty of talented drivers such as Alon Day, Ander Vilariño, Loris Hezemans, Stienes Longin, Nicolò Rocca, Jacques Villeneuve, and Marc Goossens, this year is shaping up to be the closest and tightest edition of the American SpeedFest yet.
The driver that would come to Brands Hatch with the biggest momentum on their back is the two-time and defending series champion himself, Alon Day. Last time out in Franciacorta, Day once again swept the race week to claim the championship lead from Ander Vilariño. Traditionally, Brands Hatch has been one of the strongest tracks for Day with only one finish outside of the top 5 in 8 starts on Brands Hatch so far. Expect the Israeli to become one of the cars to beat once again this week as he looks to increase his lead in the championship.
Another driver that would come to Brands Hatch with a lot of momentum is Jacques Villeneuve. The ex-Formula One champion, Indy 500 winner, and CART champion is coming to Brands Hatch looking to potentially score his first win in Euro Series after securing a double podium finish at Franciacorta. Surprisingly, this is Villeneuve’s first ever race week at Brands Hatch, so it’ll be interesting to see how the 48-year old Canadian will perform at the track where his father Gilles had scored a victory here before at the 1979 Race of Champions for Ferrari.
The winner of the Valencia rounds and the 3-time series champion Ander Vilariño is another driver to watch out for Brands Hatch. In his eight previous starts at Brands Hatch, Vilariño has never finished outside of the podium. In addition, with five wins on his name, he is also statistically the most successful Euro Series driver in Brands Hatch. However, with the current crop of drivers arguably being the strongest field that Vilariño has competed against in the Euro Series so far, he is going to be faced with a tough task to defend his podium streak here, especially after a rough weekend at Franciacorta.
Stienes Longin and Loris Hezemans are coming to Brands Hatch with the goal of closing the 15-point deficit that he currently had to Alon Day. For Longin, who is still looking for his first Elite 1 race victory, he is also looking to overcome the rough weekend that he had in Brands Hatch last year. As for Hezemans, he will be looking to potentially make a visit to the Victory Lane or at least repeat the second-place finish that he had achieved last year in the Saturday race.
Nicolò Rocca’s return to full-time competition have been mostly solid, with a quietly consistent results from him in the No. 24 PK Carsport Camaro has allowed him to be able to sit in fourth place in the Championship. He will be coming to Brands Hatch looking to score his first Euro Series podium finish since 2016, and he certainly would be taking any opportunity that would be given to him if that opportunity meant that he will score his first Euro Series victory since 2015.
Marc Goossens is also looking for yet another strong performance at Brands Hatch. Goossens is certainly no stranger to Brands Hatch, as he had scored three podium finishes in six starts here at Brands Hatch. After he was denied of a double top 5 finish last time out at Franciacorta with a engine failure late in the race, he will be looking to score the best results possible for him and Braxx Racing to potentially stay in the hunt for the Championship.
For last year’s winners Frédéric Gabillon and Gianmarco Ercoli, the story for this year’s edition of American SpeedFest for them will be a story of someone looking for redemption. Both drivers had a torrid time at Franciacorta, with Gabillon dropping to 12th in the Championship after he can only manage to score an 18th place finish and a DNF, while Ercoli currently sat in 18th with 2 DNFs already and only 1 Top 10 finish so far this season. Getting a victory here would be the best possible result that they would get to keep their championship hopes alive.
Alex Sedgwick and Ant-Whorton Eales will represent the home drivers for this year’s event. For Sedgwick, last year he missed out on a Top 5 finish result in both races, and he will be coming to Brands Hatch looking to potentially score his first overall podium finish in the series. Don’t count him out for a chance for a surprise victory either, as his No. 90 Braxx Camaro has shown that it had the potential pace to compete with the top of the pack this season.
After being forced to withdraw from Franciacorta, Ant-Whorton Eales will return to the the track this week in the No. 46 Marko Stipp Motorsport AmD Tuning Mustang. Eales is certainly familiar with the Kent circuit, as he swept all five Mini Challenge UK races that were held at Brands Hatch last year. Eales’ familiarity with both the GP layout and the Indy layout of Brands Hatch should bring him the edge that he needed to potentially score a surprise Top 10 result this week.
Don’t count out drivers such as Francesco Sini, who is looking to keep his Top 10 finishing streak alive and potentially becoming a surprise podium contender once more this year and Ulysse Delsaux, the defending Elite 2 champion, who will be looking to score his first Top 10 finish in Elite 1 since 2016 after coming close to it at Franciacorta,
Meanwhile for the drivers that competed in the Challenger Trophy, Henri Tuomaala is looking to extend his lead from the likes of Mauro Trione and Ellen Lohr. Tuomaala had an impressive 12th place finish at the Saturday race in Franciacorta that would also award the Finn with the 4 bonus points for the most positions gained on that race, while Trione and Lohr enjoyed a Top 15 finish result in the Sunday race after heavy attrition helped the two to achieve their first Top 15 finish of the season.
Dario Caso and Kenko Miura will be looking for a clean weekend after both drivers was caught in incidents throughout the Franciacorta weekend. For Caso, he was caught in the first-lap melee in Race 1 that forced him to go to the pits to repair the damage he had, while he was denied from a solid top 15 finish in the Sunday race after he was forced to retire with just 2 laps to go. For Miura, he inadvertently started the incident that would end up with Mauro Trione going upside down in the Saturday race and he was the first retirement in Sunday’s race after his No. 2 Camaro expired after just 6 laps.
There will be at least two driver changes this week. Max Lanza returns to the double duty task in the No. 41 The Club Camaro this week after the Italian skipped out on participating in the Elite 1 race at Franciacorta, while the No. 7 Mustang of Hendriks Motorsport will have a currently unannounced new driver in the seat this week after Martin Doubek suffered an injury that will force him to miss the third round of the 2019 season.
Christophe Bouchut’s exit from the Dexwet-DF1 team after the Saturday race at Franciacorta meant that there’s an empty seat available for the No. 66 team, while there is a possibility that Alex Caffi Motorsport might be able to make a late bid to have someone drive the team’s No. 1 Mustang this week.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will hit the track for Round 5 and Round 6 of the 2019 season on 1 June and 2 June respectively. The green flag for this year’s edition of American SpeedFest will be waved at 1:28 PM local GMT on Saturday for Race 1, and at 1:23 PM local GMT on Sunday for Race 2.
All races for this season are going to be aired live on FansChoice.tv, Motorsport.tv, and the official Facebook page and YouTube channel of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Photos are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.