UPDATE: This article is updated on 23 September after Jacques Villeneuve’s 30-second post-race time penalty is rescinded.

Loris Hezemans scored his third consecutive victory of the season after fending off a race-long challenge by Nicolò Rocca in a dramatic 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Playoffs opening race at Hockenheim as championship leader Stienes Longin was forced to retire from the race following a collision with Alon Day and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen.

With Longin’s retirement, the victory at Hockenheim – the fourth of his career and his second in Hockenheim – would propel Hezemans to the top of the championship as he leads the Euro Series championship for the first time in his career.

Nicolò Rocca scored his fourth podium of the season with his 2nd place finish on Race 1, while Thomas Ferrando once again proved that the decision to switch teams to CAAL Racing to be a beneficial one as he scored his second podium finish and third Top 5 finish in just four races with CAAL.

“It’s an absolutely great feeling to continue the momentum that we have at Most and afterwards at Venray”, said Hezemans to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “It was really important to get a good restart and getting away, especially in the first lap, and afterwards trying to I would say manage the gap, but the 24 gave me a good run. I had to keep on pushing, it wasn’t easy but thankfully I didn’t make too many mistakes and I was able to capture the win.”

“It’s a good day overall”, said Rocca in the post-race interview. “Started P3, finishing P2, its really good points. I think we’re a little bit quicker, maybe I could be a little more aggressive, but it’s the first race of the last 4, so I didn’t risk anything too much. Obviously I pushed really hard to try and make Loris into a mistake, but that didn’t happen unfortunately. Tomorrow we started third and we’ll go for the win.”

“Really amazing,” said Ferrando in the post-race interview. “I’m really happy for the team, for the fans and everything because it was a really tough race. Nicolo and Loris were really fast, so I’m happy to be back on the podium. It looks like the Playoffs are really good for us.”

The race started with drama from the get-go after Stienes Longin had a poor start and dropped to sixth place in the opening lap as Ander Vilarino spun out Daniel Keilwitz in Turn 6, sending the former ADAC GT Masters champion to the back of the field. Alexander Graff also ran into problem in the first lap as he ran wide into the grass on the outside of Parabolika, effectively ending his race before he was hit with a Drive-Through penalty later in the race for leaving the line before crossing the control line in the restart.

Martin Doubek then lost his brakes in lap 2 and had to slowly bring his car to the pits to retire the car after spinning out on his own in turn 3. Not long after, Dylan Derdaele collided with Henri Tuomaala at Sachskurve, sending the No. 23 Memphis Camaro into a spin. Tuomaala then beached the car in the gravel, forcing the Safety Car to be called in to recover the stricken Camaro of Tuomaala. He was able to rejoin the race and would eventually finish in 20th place, one lap down from the leaders.

After the Safety Car was called back to the pits on Lap 6, chaos immediately ensued as Mauro Trione collided with Lorenzo Marcucci at the field enters the Parabolika. Dylan Derdaele also got involved in the incident and both Marcucci and Derdaele was eliminated from the race as a result, while Trione was able to keep his car running and would eventually finished the race in 22nd place, two laps down from the leaders.

The drama continues in the second restart on Lap 11 as Frédéric Gabillon made the same mistake as Graff did earlier in the race, but fortunately for Gabillon the off-track excursion didn’t do any damage to his No. 3 TEPAC SS. Sebastiaan Bleekemolen then ran into trouble as he failed to slow down in time in Turn 6 and caused an avoidable collision with Salvador Tineo Arroyo. Despite the considerably significant hit to the side of Arroyo’s car, he was able to re-join the race without any major issues.

Photo courtesy of Volkan Avci / Leadlap.de

On the next lap, disaster struck championship leader Stienes Longin as Alon Day ran into the back of his No. 11 Projob Camaro on Turn 8. A further collision with Sebastiaan Bleekemolen would damage Longin’s car further and with the rear axle destroyed, Longin was forced to retire after he pulled his car to a stop in the run off after Turn 11.

Bleekemolen would retire from the race in the next lap as Ander Vilariño’s car came into a halt on Lap 15 due to a wheel bearing issue. Racing Engineering’s day then went from bad to worse three laps later as Romain Iannetta retired from the race on Lap 18 due to tire issues. Guillaume Deflandre’s Elite 1 debut ended in a disappointment as an engine failure on the last lap of the race denied him from a possible Top 10 finish.

The drama didn’t end either, as five drivers – Vilariño, Derdaele, Deflandre, Trione, and Day – received 30-second post-race time penalties for causing avoidable collisions during the race. Jacques Villeneuve also initially got hit with a 30-second post-race time penalty, but the penalty was later removed. Hezemans also had his fastest lap time cancelled for track limit violations, which will cost him both the fastest lap award and the pole position for Sunday’s race to Alon Day.

As Hezemans, Rocca, and Ferrando finished in the podium, Gianmarco Ercoli went on to score his best finish of the season so far with a 4th place finish, but he received a 5 Championship points penalty for forcing Villeneuve off-track when Ercoli tried to overtake the Venray pole-sitter. With Villeneuve’s post-race penalty being removed, Villeneuve was reinstated back to fifth place for his fourth Top 5 finish of the season, although he would got a 5 Championship points penalty for passing Ercoli under the Safety Car period.

Gabillon finished 6th and like Villeneuve, he also received a 5 Championship points penalty for passing Ercoli under the Safety Car. Lucas Lasserre finished seventh ahead of teammate Daniel Keilwitz, who made an impressive comeback run after his spin on the very first lap. Ulysse Delsaux quietly had a good race to finish in 9th place – his third consecutive Top 10 finish – ahead of Salvador Tineo Arroyo, who recovered well from his incident with Bleekemolen to complete the Top 10 in Saturday’s race.

Francesco Sini finished in 11th after a poor qualifying saw him only managed to qualify in the tenth row of the grid. Sini finished ahead of fellow Italian Dario Caso, whose 12th place finish was enough to not only bring home the Challenger Trophy honors, but also the bonus Championship points for the most positions gained as Caso started from 26th place for the race.

Scott Jeffs finished in 13th in his debut Elite 1 race ahead of Alon Day, who was demoted to 14th after he received the post-race time penalty for causing the race-ending incident for Longin. Ioannis Smyrlis and Marco Santamaria completes the Challenger Trophy podium with their 15th and 16th place finish today, ahead of Michaela Dorcikova who recovered from a spin at the final corner to finish in 17th ahead of Graff, who finished in 18th as the last car on the lead lap.

Deflandre was classified in 19th ahead of Tuomaala who completes the Top 20. Iannetta was 21st ahead of Trione, the last car still running on the track. Vilariño, Bleekemolen, Longin, Miura, Marcucci, Derdaele, and Doubek completes the running order in the drama-filled Playoff opening race.

FULL RACE RESULTS

POS GRID DRIVER LAPS TIME / GAP
1. 1 Loris Hezemans (50) 20 40:13.901
2. 3 Nicolò Rocca (24) 20 + 0.380
3. 4 Thomas Ferrando (27) 20 + 5.706
4. 8 Gianmarco Ercoli (9) 20 + 9.935
5. 11 Jacques Villeneuve (32) 20 + 10.432 1
6. 7 Frédéric Gabillon (3) 20 + 11.775
7. 6 Lucas Lasserre (33) 20 + 14.193
8. 14 Daniel Keilwitz (70) 20 + 14.699
9. 16 Ulysse Delsaux (36) 20 + 18.082
10. 10 Salvador Tineo Arroyo (64) 20 + 26.202
11. 19 Francesco Sini (12) 20 + 29.492
12. 26 Dario Caso (8) 20 + 30.596
13. 23 Scott Jeffs (90) 20 + 35.875
14. 12 Alon Day (54) 20 + 42.861 2
15. 27 Ioannis Smyrlis (22) 20 + 46.599
16. 29 Marco Santamaria (56) 20 + 53.470
17. 28 Michaela Dorcikova (1) 20 + 59.863
18. 5 Alexander Graff (77) 20 + 1:07.686
19. 25 Guillaume Deflandre (99) 19 DNF (Engine) 3
20. 20 Henri Tuomaala (23) 19 + 1 Lap
21. 9 Romain Iannetta (88) 18 DNF (Tire)
22. 24 Mauro Trione (31) 18 + 2 Laps 4
23. 13 Ander Vilariño (48) 14 DNF (Wheel Bearing) 5
24. 15 Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (69) 13 DNF (Collision Damage)
25. 2 Stienes Longin (11) 12 DNF (Collision Damage)
26. 22 Kenko Miura (2) 7 DNF (Collision Damage)
27. 17 Lorenzo Marcucci (41) 6 DNF (Collision)
28. 21 Dylan Derdaele (98) 6 DNF (Collision) 6
29. 18 Martin Doubek (7) 2 DNF (Brakes)

1 Villeneuve originally received a 30-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Lucas Lasserre, but the penalty was later removed and he is reinstated back to his original finishing position of 5th place.
2 Day originally finished 7th, but he received a 30-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Stienes Longin.
3
Deflandre received a 30-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Kenko Miura, but it didn’t affect his race result as he retired from the race.
4 Trione received a 30-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Lorenzo Marcucci, but it didn’t affect his race result.
5 Vilarino received a 30-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Daniel Keilwitz, but it didn’t affect his race result as he retired from the race.
6 Derdaele received a 30-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Henri Tuomaala, but it didn’t affect his race result as he retired from the race.

In the championship, Hezemans moves up to the lead as he comes to Race 11 with a 11-points lead from Nicolò Rocca. Stienes Longin drops down to third with a gap of 37 points between him and Hezemans as Thomas Ferrando moves up to 6th with 273 points, just 10 points away from Vilarino who is still sitting in fifth place.

The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will hit the track for Round 11 of the 2019 season on 22 September. All qualifying and 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.

Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.

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