Frédéric Gabillon scored his first victory of the season on the day where he breaks Wilfried Boucenna’s record of the most race starts in the Elite 1 class. The Race 2 at Brands Hatch this year marked Gabillon’s 78th start in the series, which will now eclipse Boucenna’s record of 77 starts in the Elite 1 class. This is Gabillon’s 12th career victory in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and his 7th win for RDV Competition.
Starting from Pole, Gabillon initially lost the lead to Loris Hezemans at the start, but that all changed when the Safety Car was called for the first time on Lap 3 after Mauro Trione crashed out at Paddock Hill. On the ensuing restart period on Lap 9, Hezemans jumped the gun too early, which causes him to get a Drive Through penalty. The penalty would allow Gabillon to reclaim the lead on Lap 14 when Hezemans pulled to the pits to serve his penalty.
After another Safety Car period due to Jennifer Jo Cobb crashing out at Clearways, Gabillon was left with the task to defend the lead from the charging Stienes Longin. He then used his experience to pull off a masterpiece of defending driving, putting his No. 3 SS exactly where he needed for the remainder of the race to secure his first victory of the 2019 season.
“It was really difficult,” said Gabillon to series commentator Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “Honestly, I’ve been lucky to make the fastest lap yesterday and we’ve been struggling since the first lap. My first lap was terrible, I have no grip at all and Loris was so fast and I couldn’t keep his gap. I’m happy because it’s been a long way this year. We have a lot of work to do to find more pace during the race.”
Stienes Longin finished second again in this race, his fourth 2nd place finish this season. Longin arguably had more pace in his No. 11 Camaro than Gabillon’s No. 3 SS, but with Gabillon’s car being in the right place in the right time throughout the race, ultimately Longin was unable to find a way to pass the 43-year old Frenchman.
“It was a challenging race,” said Longin to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “Fred was really competitive, he closed the door always and stayed on the ideal line, so it was really hard to pass him. I’m not the guy who (will) push someone off in trying to pass him, so second place is not bad, but now in the Championship, I have (finished) 4 times in second place and I need the P1 so bad.”
Alon Day completes the rostrum and with a grand total of 74 points earned this round, he was crowned as this year’s “King of Brands Hatch” by the organizers of American SpeedFest. He did not grab third easily, however, as Alexander Graff put on the one of the performances of the day in Sunday’s Elite 1 race.
Having started in seventh, Graff was able to move up to P4 with 12 laps to go after Nicolo Rocca spun himself out at Graham Hill Bend on Lap 25 and the tires on Alex Sedgwick’s No. 90 car started to fell off in performance on the following lap. From then on, Graff began hounding on the back end of Alon Day’s No. 54 SS, and he nearly got past Day on Lap 35 after Graff got a good run exiting Clark Curve and was side-by-side with Day on the main straight before backing off before Paddock Hill. Graff ultimately would finish in 4th, just 1.5 seconds behind the leaders, to tie his best ever finish result in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Racing Engineering cars completed the week with a strong result for both Ander Vilariño and Romain Iannetta, who finished in 5th and 6th ahead of last year’s Race 2 winner Gianmarco Ercoli, who scored his first Junior Trophy victory with a 7th place finish on Sunday.
Jacques Villeneuve had a strong race to finish in 8th from 11th on the grid, ahead of Nicolo Rocca whose strong race was ultimately hampered when he spun on his own at Graham Hill Bend after trying to overtake his teammate Stienes Longin at Druids on Lap 25. Having dropped all the way to 14th, Rocca made a good recovery job to gain 5 places in the space of 13 laps.
Completing the Top 10 is Lasse Sørensen who once again had an excellent recovery drive. Having started from second-to-last on the grid in this race after he only finished one lap in yesterday’s Race 1, Sørensen already climbed 11 places when the Safety Car for Jo Cobb’s crash, and by the end Sørensen would climb 7 more places to earn the 4 bonus Championship points for the most positions gained in this race.
Finishing right behind Sorensen is Francesco Sini, who also made an excellent recovery drive in Sunday’s race. Having started from dead last after being forced to not start Saturday’s race due to the engine failure in his No. 12 Solaris Camaro that can’t be replaced in time, Sini would slowly make his way through the field, eventually finishing in 11th – the same positions gained as Sørensen – and would only lost the bonus Championship points opportunity by virtue of finishing just one position behind Sørensen.
Loris Hezemans would eventually finished in 12th after his Drive Through penalty dropped him as far as 20th. Hezemans would finish ahead in the quartet of Junior Trophy drivers that finished from 12th to 15th, with Thomas Ferrando, Ulysse Delsaux, and Salvador Tineo Arroyo finishing the race in 13th, 14th, and 15th respectively.
Henri Tuomaala once again leads the Challenger Trophy drivers in 16th place ahead of Sebastian Bleekemolen, with Dario Caso once again finishing second in the Challenger Trophy with his 18th place finish in the Sunday race. Marc Goossens can only finish in 19th after he got spun around in the first lap melee at Clark Curve ahead of his teammate Alex Sedgwick, who dropped like a stone in the final 10 laps of the race after his tires went bust, a disappointing end for the Brit given that he battled in the Top 5 pack for the majority of the race.
Kenko Miura completes the Challenger Trophy podium once more with his 21st place finish ahead of fellow Challenger Trophy drivers Simone Laureti and Ellen Lohr in 22nd and 23rd respectively. Lucas Lasserre was classified in 24th after he had to retire from 8th place on Lap 36 after his gearbox stopped working just after Paddock Hill, while his teammate Eric Filgueiras would become the last finisher in 25th place – 5 laps down from the leaders – after he had to make a lengthy visit to the pit lane due to an engine problem in the first few laps of the race.
Classified in 26th place is Ant Whorton-Eales, who went off to the gravel trap at Paddock Hill from 6th place on Lap 23 and had to retire at the end of the same lap after his gearbox seized up due to the off-track excursion. Jennifer Jo Cobb and Mauro Trione was classified in 27th and 28th after both drivers crashed out on their own at Clearways on Lap 14 and Paddock Hill on Lap 2 respectively, while Eric De Doncker parked his car in the pit lane on the Warm Up lap, presumably due to the physical fitness issue that would ultimately force him to not start the Elite 2 race later that day.
Full Race Results
|POS||GRID||DRIVER||LAPS||TIME / GAP|
|1.||1||Frédéric Gabillon (3)||38||39:07.129|
|2.||4||Stienes Longin (11)||38||+ 0.284|
|3.||6||Alon Day (54)||38||+ 1.067|
|4.||7||Alexander Graff (77)||38||+ 1.519|
|5.||8||Ander Vilariño (48)||38||+ 1.743|
|6.||15||Romain Iannetta (88)||38||+ 2.348|
|7.||10||Gianmarco Ercoli (9)||38||+ 2.768|
|8.||11||Jacques Villeneuve (32)||38||+ 4.300|
|9.||3||Nicolò Rocca (24)||38||+ 4.681|
|10.||28||Lasse Sørensen (66)||38||+ 5.153|
|11.||29||Francesco Sini (12)||38||+ 5.875|
|12.||2||Loris Hezemans (50)||38||+ 7.623|
|13.||17||Thomas Ferrando (27)||38||+ 9.629|
|14.||14||Ulysse Delsaux (36)||38||+ 10.887|
|15.||18||Salvador Tineo Arroyo (64)||38||+ 13.028|
|16.||16||Henri Tuomaala (23)||38||+ 14.195|
|17.||24||Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (69)||38||+ 14.747|
|18.||19||Dario Caso (8)||38||+ 15.331|
|19.||13||Marc Goossens (78)||38||+ 17.412|
|20.||5||Alex Sedgwick (90)||38||+ 18.232|
|21.||20||Kenko Miura (2)||38||+ 18.536|
|22.||26||Simone Laureti (19)||38||+ 23.670|
|23.||25||Ellen Lohr (99)||38||+ 24.125|
|24.||12||Lucas Lasserre (33)||36||DNF (Gearbox)|
|25.||21||Eric Filgueiras (70)||33||+ 5 Laps|
|26.||9||Ant Whorton-Eales (46)||23||DNF (Gearbox)|
|27.||27||Jennifer Jo Cobb (1)||14||DNF (Accident)|
|28.||23||Mauro Trione (31)||1||DNF (Accident)|
|29.||22||Eric De Doncker (98)||0||DNF (Physical)|
In the Drivers Championship, Alon Day with 221 points would come out from Brands Hatch as the Championship leader, now with a 19-point advantage over Stienes Longin with 202 points in second. Nicolò Rocca remains in third with 189 points ahead of Loris Hezemans, who currently have 185 points.
Vilariño’s strong finish today meant that he remains in fifth place in the championship with 166 points, 9 points ahead of Jacques Villeneuve and Alexander Graff who is now tied in sixth and seventh respectively with Villeneuve ahead by virtue of his two podiums at Franciacorta. Gabillon’s victory would jump him to eighth in the championship, just one point behind Villeneuve and Graff.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series would hold the non-championship All Star Time Attack at Chinon on 22-23 June before returning for the fourth round of the season, the first ever NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race at Autodrom Most in Czech Republic on 29-30 June.
All races and qualifying session of this season 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 and qualifying replay available to be viewed at NWES’ YouTube channel.
Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.