Credits to Leadlap.de, Chris Liemann, Andre Wiegold, and Simon Mones for the original reporting.
Yesterday, Leadlap.de releases an article of their exclusive interview with Jacques Villeneuve where Villeneuve talks on his plans for the 2020 racing season, his criticism on his competitor’s driving behaviours following a penalty-ridden American Fan Fest Semi Finals at Hockenheim, and his thoughts on visiting Zolder – the track where his father Gilles was killed in a Qualifying accident during the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix – for the first time.
Villeneuve is currently making his NASCAR Whelen Euro Series debut this year. It marked his return to NASCAR for the first time since his participation in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series race at Trois-Rivieres in 2014, as well as his first full racing season since his last (incomplete) full season in Formula One with BMW Sauber in 2006.
He also became the first Canadian driver to compete full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, and just the second Canadian driver to race in EuroNASCAR after Jean-Francois Dumoulin, who made a cameo appearance in the 2018 season finale round at Zolder.
After 11 races, Villeneuve currently sits in 8th place in the Elite 1 championship with 331 points having scored 3 podium finishes, a total of 6 Top 10 finishes, and one pole position at Venray. Leadlap reports that Villeneuve is satisfied with his comeback so far, and he currently plans to not only continue racing in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2020, but he also hints that he may become an owner-driver next season.
“We don’t have a real workshop where we can prepare the car. As a rule, we don’t come to the track until Thursday or Friday morning [before a race weekend] with a mechanic and an engineer to prepare the car. We are still competitive with our pace and it’s a lot of fun to drive here in the NWES,” Villeneuve told Leadlap.de.
“It’s a learning year for me to understand how everything works here in EuroNASCAR. I hope to start my own team next year. That’s what I’m working on right now,” said Villeneuve as he revealed his current plans for 2020.
Villeneuve’s post-Formula One career is known for his controversial opinions, and he certainly didn’t hold back his frustrations on how the drivers raced at Hockenheim. The races at Hockenheim last week saw plenty of penalties being given by the officials for irresponsible driving, and this certainly does not impress him as he made his criticism clear to Leadlap.
This isn’t the first time Villeneuve has been left frustrated by how the other drivers raced this year – Following an intense battle with current championship leader Loris Hezemans on the Sunday race at Franciacorta, he was left frustrated by some of Hezemans’ blocking attempts, with Villeneuve saying to series commentator Mark Werrell in the post-race interview that he “feel the blocking is way too much” and if an incident like that happened in the States, “it would’ve been in the wall within 2 corners.”
“There is a narrow line between aggressive driving and incorrect driving, which some drivers unfortunately don’t seem to understand,” said Villeneuve to Leadlap. “If the driver ahead only blocks and leaves no room for the driver behind, then it is no wonder that accidents occur.
It is often criticized that there are not enough overtaking maneuvers nowadays. But how can you overtake if you don’t have enough space on the track? The same goes for the pushing off into the grass, that’s just not clean racing. The race control was perfectly entitled to pronounce all the penalties.”
Villeneuve thinks that the drivers today can follow the racing etiquette from the drivers that raced in the 90s. “In the 90s they respected each other on the track and left each other room. Blocking is a bad habit that has crept in over the last few years, starting in the junior classes and going as far as the professional area,” comments Villeneuve.
Villeneuve also speaks about his upcoming visit to Zolder to participate in Euro Series’ season finale race, the American Festival NASCAR Finals, on 5-6 October. Zolder is infamous for being the track where Jacques’ father Gilles was killed 37 years ago, and Jacques – who never made a visit to Zolder before – will find next week’s race to be a particularly emotional one.
“I am looking forward to coming to Zolder. I’ve never been there before. It will be the first time for me to come to the track where my father had his accident. It will be a special weekend for me.”
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard / Bart Dehaese.