Nicolò Rocca secured his first NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race win since 2015 in a race that ended under the Safety Car after Loris Hezemans’ engine blew in a spectacular fashion with 4 laps to go, with the oil that was dropped from Hezemans’ engine forcing the officials to end the race under Safety Car as it couldn’t be cleared fast enough for the race to be able to finish under the green flag conditions.
The victory is Rocca’s fourth career victory in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, 1386 days since his last victory at Umbria Race 2 in 2015. It’s also Rocca’s first victory for PK Carsport and his first since returning to full-time competition this year.
Starting from pole position, Rocca lost out to Hezemans on the run to the first corner. After initially losing ground to Hezemans in the early stages of the race, Rocca was able to slowly catch up and stay within two seconds from Hezemans for most of the race. Ultimately, when Hezemans’ engine blew up, Rocca was in the best position to take advantage of it.
“It feels so good,” said Rocca in the Victory Lane. “First of all, I’m really sorry for Loris. It was a really tough race, I pushed so hard and I guess he was pushing so hard as well and it’s a shame that he finished that way because I could’ve catch him and it would’ve been better for the fans, but you know what, that’s motorsport and you’ve got to embrace it. I’m over the moon now, I’m so happy. Thanks to everyone, pole position for tomorrow, it feels great.”
Stienes Longin makes it a PK Carsport 1-2 in the end as he finished second yet again, his fifth second place finish of the season. Having started from fourth, he made a good start and was able to pass Alon Day for third on the first lap. Stienes initially was able to stay with Hezemans and Rocca, but he would slowly lose ground towards the two leaders as the race continued.
Despite this, Hezemans’ engine failure would mean that he was promoted to second in the end and Alon Day’s retirement meant that he was able to close the gap to Day in the Championship from 19 points to just 2 points.
“It’s crazy, it’s my fifth P2 this year,” said Stienes to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “At the end it was not the strongest race. I couldn’t follow Hezemans and Rocca, but I’m happy with the P2. If you’re not strong enough and you can finish in P2, you have to be happy. Rocca did a great job winning this race, he was so fast and I couldn’t follow him. But, P2, good for the points.”
Thomas Ferrando was able to keep his No. 27 Mustang clean to secure his first podium finish of the season as well as his first podium finish in the Elite 1 class since 2016. Starting from seventh, he made his way to fourth after Alon Day and Jacques Villeneuve tangled together on Lap 4, which in turn hampered Lucas Lasserre who was ahead of Ferrando at that point. He would ultimately finished in third in his first race for CAAL Racing – the No. 27 team was transferred to CAAL for this week.
“We are really happy to be in the podium,” said Ferrando to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “It my first podium on a normal (non-oval) track, and really happy to be on the podium. We’ve done a great job with mechanics and all of the team. It’s a new team, new car, so I’m really happy to be there. Huge congrats for what we’ve done since the practice.”
The race itself started incident-free with the biggest drama being Alon Day’s poor start. Day, who started third, had an abnormally terrible start and dropped down to 8th halfway through the first lap. Day then slowly climbed back up to the field, passing Sebastiaan Bleekemolen and Ferrando to climb to P6 when disaster struck on Lap 4.
Coming to Turn 1, Day came in too hot and collided with Jacques Villeneuve, with Lucas Lasserre also pushed wide in trying to avoid the tangle. The collision results in a left-rear puncture for Day and a major damage on the front end of Villeneuve’s car, forcing the two to limp back to the pits. Villeneuve’s day was done on the spot, while Day tried to continue after he replaced the left-rear tire before part of his rear bodywork flew on Lap 9. Day instinctively brought the No. 54 SS back to the pits to retire from the race soon after.
More drama would follow on lap 5 as there was another tangle in the chicane between Salvador Tineo Arroyo and Romain Iannetta. Tineo got spun around by Iannetta entering turn 2, a move that would result in a drive-through penalty for Iannetta and both driver dropped down the running order as a result of the incident, ultimately finishing in 16th and 18th respectively.
Back at the front, as Rocca continued to chase down Hezemans, there was some fantastic battle for position on the mid-pack as Lucas Lasserre battles Sebastiaan Bleekemolen for P5, while Alexander Graff had a thrilling battle for eighth place with Gianmarco Ercoli.
Then on lap 13, the complexity of the race would change drastically as Loris Hezemans’ engine blew as he brakes for turn 1. The oil that the engine dropped to the track would saw several drivers, such as Stienes Longin and Thomas Ferrando, took the escape road as they weren’t able to brake in time due to the oil spill. The Safety Car was called soon after, and ultimately it was decided that the race would end under the Safety Car to ensure that the oil clean up would allow the Elite 2 and support races to be done in a safe manner.
“Coming around the back straight, the car felt really great during the whole race. We have no sign of an engine issue,” said Hezemans to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “I came in to the straight and when I brake, I just shifted normal, fourth to third (gear), the engine just blew up. Afterwards I double checked just to make sure I did really shift to third gear when the car was standing still and it was indeed in third, so we’re just really unlucky I guess.”
As Rocca, Stienes, and Ferrando finished in the podium, Lucas Lasserre was able to stay ahead of Bleekemolen to finish in fourth. It’s still a very good performance for Sebastiaan Bleekemolen nonetheless, as he secured his first Top 5 finish in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series on Saturday’s race at Most.
Francesco Sini is sixth as Gianmarco Ercoli would win the battle with Graff to finish in seventh. Graff would lose a further position to his teammate Henri Tuomaala, as the Finn finished in eighth to win the Challenger Trophy once again at Most. Ander Vilariño completes the Top 10 in what has been a very tough weekend for Racing Engineering.
Ulysse Delsaux barely missed a Top 10 finish yet again in 11th, as home driver Martin Doubek finished in 12th from 19th on the grid. Eric de Doncker finished 13th ahead of Ellen Lohr, who will claim the 4 bonus championship points as the driver with the most position gained in the race. Mauro Trione was 15th ahead of Tineo Arroyo, while Frederic Gabillon also had a disastrous day, as he would drop down to finish in 17th ahead of Iannetta.
Hezemans would be classified in 19th ahead of Day, while Dario Caso – who started long after the Green Flag was waved, presumably due to the after effects of his crash in FP1 – was the last car running in 21st, 11 laps down from the leaders. Villeneuve is in 22nd and just ahead of Kenko Miura, whose day was over after Jesse Vartiainen – Kenko’s Elite 2 teammate – damaged the steering of the No. 2 Mustang during the Elite 2 Qualifying and the team couldn’t fix it fully for the race, ultimately retiring on the same lap as Villeneuve.
Christophe Bouchut was the only non-starter for the race after Thomas Krasonis blew the engine of the No. 1 Mustang during the Elite 2 qualifying and the team couldn’t replace it in time for the Elite 1 race.
Full Race Results
|POS||GRID||DRIVER||LAPS||TIME / GAP|
|1.||1||Nicolò Rocca (24)||17||35:34.437|
|2.||4||Stienes Longin (11)||17||+ 0.666|
|3.||7||Thomas Ferrando (27)||17||+ 1.156|
|4.||6||Lucas Lasserre (33)||17||+ 2.036|
|5.||8||Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (69)||17||+ 2.552|
|6.||9||Francesco Sini (12)||17||+ 2.868|
|7.||14||Gianmarco Ercoli (9)||17||+ 3.530|
|8.||11||Henri Tuomaala (23)||17||+ 4.053|
|9.||13||Alexander Graff (77)||17||+ 4.343|
|10.||15||Ander Vilariño (48)||17||+ 6.016|
|11.||11||Ulysse Delsaux (36)||17||+ 6.664|
|12.||19||Martin Doubek (7)||17||+ 7.403|
|13.||21||Eric de Doncker (98)||17||+ 9.532|
|14.||23||Ellen Lohr (99)||17||+ 10.903|
|15.||22||Mauro Trione (31)||17||+ 11.223|
|16.||17||Salvador Tineo Arroyo (64)||17||+ 11.949|
|17.||12||Frédéric Gabillon (3)||17||+ 12.773|
|18.||18||Romain Iannetta (88)||17||+ 17.669|
|19.||2||Loris Hezemans (50)||13||DNF (Engine)|
|20.||3||Alon Day (54)||9||DNF (Collision Damage)|
|21.||24||Dario Caso (8)||6||+ 11 Laps|
|22.||5||Jacques Villeneuve (32)||4||DNF (Collision Damage)|
|23.||20||Kenko Miura (2)||4||DNF (Steering)|
|24.||10||Christophe Bouchut (1)||0||DNS (Engine)|
In the Championship, Day’s retirement meant that his 19-point lead to Stienes Longin has been reduced to just 2 points. Nicolò Rocca’s victory would also close the gap in the Championship significantly, as he’s now just 10 points behind Day in the Championship after coming in to the race with a 32-point gap to overcome to Day.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will hit the track today for Round 8 of the 2019 season. The green flag for Round 8 will be waved at 2:25 PM CET. All races for this season will be aired live on FansChoice.tv, Motorsport.tv, and the official Facebook page and YouTube channel of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.