Loris Hezemans places himself as the driver to beat for the upcoming American Festival NASCAR Finals at Zolder on 5-6 October after the Dutchman scored a sensational victory in the Sunday Elite 1 race at Hockenheim to further extend his lead in the Championship.
Hezemans, who started in second, took the lead from Thomas Ferrando on Lap 6 and like in Saturday’s race, had to fend off the challenge by Nicolò Rocca to pull the sweep at Hockenheim and secure his fourth consecutive race win of the season.
Nicolò Rocca once again finished 2nd behind Hezemans for the third time this season as Gianmarco Ercoli finished in 3rd place to score his first podium finish of the season. Ercoli’s podium would cap off a strong day for the No. 9 Racers Motorsport team as Alessandro Brigatti had also brought the No. 9 car to the podium in the Elite 2 race held earlier in the day.
“It’s been a great feeling to be able to finish again today in 1st position”, said Hezemans to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “It definitely wasn’t easy. I had to fight first with Alon, its sad to see what happened to him. He was leading and he was driving very well, so hopefully he can compensate that in Zolder, and then afterwards with the 24, it wasn’t an easy day.”
“Overall, its been a really good weekend”, said Rocca in the post-race interview. “It keeps us in the fight for the Championship, which is what we wanted coming here. But again, we showed that we had a really good speed at the race. Maybe we’re quicker than Loris, but he’s really good at defending. I tried, I tried my best to try overtake him and I had been more aggressive than yesterday. I tried to overtake him in a couple of instances, but I couldn’t find a way through and I finished second. But I really wanted to win, that’s for sure. I hope it’s an enjoyable race to watch because I really gave everything.”
“I’m very happy because this year isn’t my very best season”, said Ercoli in the post-race interview. “I worked very good with the team, with the engineer to achieve this result and this weekend, the results arrived. There is one fourth and third here, so I’m very happy after this weekend.”
The race started with no incidents as pole sitter Alon Day put himself in the lead of the race for the first three laps of the race. Unfortunately for the Israeli, as he started the fourth lap of the 20-lap race, his car starts to break down. This creates confusion for both Hezemans and Rocca as both drivers mistakenly thought that Day slowed down because the Safety Car had been called – which it hadn’t. Hezemans and Rocca soon realized their mistakes when Thomas Ferrando took this opportunity to grab the lead, and Day would show his frustration as he exits his car after parking it on the marshall post between Turns 1 and 2.
“It was really such a surprise, like he really braked or something”, said Hezemans on this incident. “I don’t know exactly what happened. I think me and the 24 both are a little bit surprised [that Day slowed down], so we braked too and then we saw Ferrando shot by and we were like “Oh, we gotta go!””.
Thomas Ferrando would lead the race for the next two laps before he started to lose pace in his No. 27 CAAL Racing Ford Mustang. This was enough for both Hezemans and Rocca to be able to pass the Frenchman on Lap 6, and both drivers soon started to build a gap over the rest of the field as Ferrando, Ercoli, Frédéric Gabillon, Romain Iannetta, Ander Vilariño, and later Jacques Villeneuve battled each other for the final podium spot. Ercoli would ultimately win the battle for third after he passed Ferrando on Lap 12, and a mistake by Ferrando at the entry of Parabolika the following lap would ultimately drop the Frenchman to 6th in the end.
Further back on the field, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen ends his week at Hockenheim with a double retirement after Dylan Derdaele collided with him on Turn 11 on Lap 7, sending Bleekemolen’s car into the gravel trap. Derdaele himself would eventually retire from the race due to the damage sustained from the collision two laps later as Mauro Trione lost an opportunity to score finish in the Top 15 after Martin Doubek spun him out on Lap 10. Both Derdaele and Doubek would later receive 30-second post-race time penalties as a result of their respective incidents.
The complexity of the race was changed on Lap 14 when the Safety Car was called after Dario Caso crashed into Michaela Dorcikova on the Stadium section, a move that ultimately results in Caso’s disqualification from the race. The race was restarted with three laps to go and despite Rocca giving his best to find a way to overtake Hezemans, ultimately the 22-year old Dutchman was able to withstand the pressure to sweep the weekend at Hockenheim.
Romain Iannetta scored his second Top 5 finish of the season with a 4th place finish ahead of Gabillon, who completes the Top 5 to score his third Top 5 finish of the season. Ferrando finished in 6th ahead of Villeneuve and Alexander Graff, as Scott Jeffs quietly sneaks his way to 9th place from 24th place on the grid. Doubek’s post-race time penalty would mean that Jeffs will bring home the bonus Championship points for the most positions gained as Ulysse Delsaux celebrates his 22nd birthday with his fourth consecutive Top 10 finish of the season.
After missing out the Top 10 with a last-lap engine failure on the Saturday race, Guillaume Deflandre barely missed out the Top 10 again with an 11th place finish ahead of Italians Francesco Sini and Lorenzo Marcucci. Vilariño dropped down to 14th place in the end after the Spaniard was forced to have off-track excursion on the restart due to an inopportune understeer by Villeneuve on Turns 6 and 7, while Salvador Tineo Arroyo completes the Top 15.
Ioannis Smyrlis brought home the Challenger Trophy honors with a 16th place finish ahead of Kenko Miura, who recovered from last on the grid to gain 12 places in the race. Stienes Longin wasn’t able to make much progress and can only finish in 18th place to effectively end his Championship hopes as Henri Tuomaala and Mauro Trione completes the Top 20. Doubek’s post-race time penalty would drop him down to 21st, the last car classified to be running at the end of the race.
Marco Santamaria was classified in 22nd place after spun off on his own on the penultimate lap. Dorcikova, Derdaele, Bleekemolen, and Day would join Santamaria in the list of the retirements, while Caso’s disqualification meant that he was classified in 27th and last place in the official final results.
The Mishumotors duo of Daniel Keilwitz and Lucas Lasserre failed to start the race as the incidents suffered by their Elite 2 drivers Mirco Schultis and Ben Creanor in the Elite 2 race earlier in the day left the team with two damaged cars and the team ultimately wasn’t able to fix the car in time for the Elite 1 race.
FULL RACE RESULTS
|POS||GRID||DRIVER||LAPS||TIME / GAP|
|1.||2||Loris Hezemans (50)||20||34:53.133|
|2.||3||Nicolò Rocca (24)||20||+ 0.203|
|3.||8||Gianmarco Ercoli (9)||20||+ 0.744|
|4.||13||Romain Iannetta (88)||20||+ 1.264|
|5.||5||Frédéric Gabillon (3)||20||+ 2.141|
|6.||4||Thomas Ferrando (27)||20||+ 3.420|
|7.||7||Jacques Villeneuve (32)||20||+ 4.402|
|8.||16||Alexander Graff (77)||20||+ 6.632|
|9.||24||Scott Jeffs (90)||20||+ 7.106|
|10.||9||Ulysse Delsaux (36)||20||+ 7.486|
|11.||12||Guillaume Deflandre (99)||20||+ 8.629|
|12.||19||Francesco Sini (12)||20||+ 9.118|
|13.||18||Lorenzo Marcucci (41)||20||+ 9.562|
|14.||14||Ander Vilariño (48)||20||+ 11.014|
|15.||15||Salvador Tineo Arroyo (64)||20||+ 11.197|
|16.||25||Ioannis Smyrlis (22)||20||+ 12.933|
|17.||29||Kenko Miura (2)||20||+ 13.289|
|18.||17||Stienes Longin (11)||20||+ 14.033|
|19.||23||Henri Tuomaala (23)||20||+ 14.946|
|20.||22||Mauro Trione (31)||20||+ 26.345|
|21.||28||Martin Doubek (7)||20||+ 36.328 1|
|22.||27||Marco Santamaria (56)||18||DNF (Spun Off)|
|23.||26||Michaela Dorcikova (1)||13||DNF (Collision)|
|24.||20||Dylan Derdaele (98)||9||DNF (Collision Damage) 2|
|25.||10||Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (69)||7||DNF (Collision)|
|26.||1||Alon Day (54)||3||DNF (Mechanical)|
|27.||21||Dario Caso (8)||13||DSQ (Disqualified) 3|
|28.||6||Daniel Keilwitz (70)||0||DNS (Collision Damage)|
|29.||11||Lucas Lasserre (33)||0||DNS (Collision Damage)|
1 Doubek originally finished 8th, but he received a 30-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Mauro Trione.
2 Derdaele received a 30-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, but it didn’t affect his race result as he retired from the race.
3 Caso was disqualified for causing an accident with Michaela Dorcikova.
In the Championship standings, Loris Hezemans’ perfect week saw him leave Hockenheim with 425 points, 21 points ahead of Nicolò Rocca. Longin’s miserable weekend would saw him leave Hockenheim with a 71 points deficit to Hezemans, while Vilarino and Day would leave Hockenheim with a deficit of 78 and 84 points respectively.
Gabillon moves up to sixth place with 338 points, just 3 points behind Day in the Championship standings. Ferrando and Villeneuve climbed up to 7th and 8th place with 335 and 331 points respectively, while Iannetta dropped down to 9th place with 327 points. Graff and Ercoli are now tied for 10th place with 322 points, but Ercoli wins the tiebreaker by virtue of a better best finishing position.
With a maximum of 168 points still available at Zolder, drivers such as Longin, Vilariño, Day, Gabillon, Ferrando, Villeneuve, Iannetta, Graff, and Ercoli are mathematically still in the running in the chase for the Championship. However, just like in Elite 2 where Giorgio Maggi and Lasse Sørensen has built a massive gap over the rest of the field, their chances to win the title this year have pretty much disappeared and they would need Hezemans and/or Rocca to make a major mistake at Zolder in order to have a realistic chance of becoming the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will be returning for the season finale, the American Festival NASCAR Finals at Circuit Zolder on 5-6 October. 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.