In a race that began with one the biggest pile-ups in Euro Series history, Thomas Ferrando was able to keep his CAAL Racing Ford Mustang clean to secure his first ever NASCAR Whelen Euro Series victory in the Elite 1 class.

Starting from pole, he became one of the only 7 drivers to not get involved in the accident as he’s the only driver ahead of the first corner incident. From then on, Ferrando steadily maintained his lead as he leads from the start to the finish to become the second Elite 2 alumnus to score a victory in the Elite 1 class.

Marc Goossens chased Ferrando relentlessly and had actually taken the lead of the race briefly on Lap 8, but a mistake soon after would saw Ferrando reclaim the lead and Goossens eventually had to settle for 2nd place with a gap of just 0.128 seconds, with Stienes Longin returning to form in his home race as he claimed his 7th podium finish of the season in 3rd place.

“It’s an amazing job done by the mechanics because we had a problem during the Elite 2 Qualifying,” said Ferrando to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “The car was perfect, we managed to do a clean race. I hoped that Fred (Gabillon) will be there with me on the podium, but maybe tomorrow.”

“I’m really happy and I want to thank everyone on the team and also my sponsor Knauf, who is here for a long time and I’m really happy to represent their colors. Really happy to be in the 1st place in Elite 1 for the first time.”

“It was pretty cool, I have to admit especially with the changing conditions that we have in Free Practice and Qualifying this morning,” said Goossens in the post-race interview. “It’s hard to tell where you’re at when all of a sudden its drying again. I think we showed some good pace, but once I took the lead from Ferrando, I should’ve finished the business there.”

“But I forced myself into a mistake and to be honest with you, it’s just a lack of racing rhythm. I’ve been away for three weekends, the other guys keep going in the same rhythm of NASCAR and its so good fun to be back in the series, but that mistake where I lost P1 again, it’s just down to me. It’s a lack of experience I guess.”

“At the end, it was not a bad race,” said Stienes in the post-race interview. “I think someone hit me a little bit in the front so my steering was not 100% correct, so it’s not easy to control the car, but it was not bad. Not a bad result, I’m not really happy with it but I’m not disappointed. So third place, good for the championship, maybe tomorrow we can finish 2nd in the championship and I think its still a good result.”

Saturday’s Elite 1 race started with major drama as “The Big One” strikes on the very first corner. Romain Iannetta made a good start and tried to overtake Stienes Longin on the first corner, but his car got loose as he drove over the kerb and sends both him and Frédéric Gabillon to a spin. Iannetta also touched Stienes Longin’s car, forcing the Belgian to go to the gravel with Marc Goossens and Loris Hezemans also having to drive through the gravel trap to avoid Gabillon’s spinning car.

 As Gabillon tries to recover, he touches Guillaume Deflandre and sends the No. 99 Dexwet-DF1 Camaro into spin while Nicolò Rocca tries to avoid Gabillon to the left of the track. Unfortunately for him, Henri Tuomaala came in too fast and rammed the rear left of his Camaro, causing significant damage on the right-front side of Tuomaala’s car and broke the rear-left suspension of Rocca’s car.

Photo courtesy of Marko Stipp Motorsport

Gabillon’s spin creates a domino effect that causes the drivers starting on the back half of the grid to pile up on one and another. Ulysse Delsaux, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, Lucas Lasserre, Martin Doubek, Ander Vilariño, Jacques Villeneuve, and Salvador Tineo Arroyo were all involved in this incident, with Vilariño and Bleekemolen’s car also getting some air time in their car in the incident. Kenko Miura got loose on the grass and hits the rear-left side of Rocca’s car as Francesco Sini collides the heavily damaged car of Henri Tuomaala.

In total, 17 cars out of the 25 starting the race were involved in this accident, be it by making direct contact or by having to drive through the gravel trap to take avoiding action. Rocca and Lasserre were eliminated immediately from the race, with Miura and Gabillon retiring soon after they brought back their cars to the pit lane. Eventually, Martin Doubek also had to retire later in the race due to the damage sustained in the crash.

Gianmarco Ercoli was able to keep his car clean and finish in fourth to score his third consecutive Top 5 finish. With Rocca’s early retirement, Loris Hezemans was able to further extend his lead in the championship as he finishes in 5th place after having to take avoiding action in the first corner incident.

Alon Day is in 6th ahead of Alex Sedgwick, who recovered from a spin of his own on the first lap to secure a Top 10 finish in his return to the series. Guillaume Deflandre was able to recover from the spin in The Big One to claim his second consecutive Top 10 finish in Elite 1 in 8th place ahead of Dylan Derdaele, while Ander Vilariño recovers to Top 10 despite Martin Doubek scooped his car to the hood of Doubek’s car in the first corner incident.

Ulysse Delsaux barely missed out on his 5th Top 10 finish of the season in 11th place ahead of Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, who also recovered well after his Mustang got scooped up in the first lap incident. Romain Iannetta drops down to 13th after he received a drive-through penalty for causing the first lap incident and he finished ahead of Jacques Villeneuve, who claimed the Pole Position for Sunday’s race after he scored the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap of the race.

Henri Tuomaala somehow was able to keep his car going without making any visit to the pit lane, and he would eventually claim yet another win in the Challenger Trophy after Dario Caso received a post-race time penalty. Francesco Sini’s tough weekend continued as he can only finish in 16th place. Mauro Trione is in 17th, while Dario Caso’s penalty meant that he was demoted to 18th place as the last car classified on the lead lap.

Alexander Graff had to retire late in the race for a suspected mechanical issue, while Tineo Arroyo finished 11 laps down in 20th place after Marko Stipp Motorsport did a lengthy repair work on the No. 46 Camaro bring the Spaniard back on track. Doubek, Miura, Gabillon, Rocca, and Lasserre rounds out the retirement list for Saturday’s Elite 1 race.

FULL RACE RESULTS

POS GRID DRIVER LAPS TIME / GAP
1. 1 Thomas Ferrando (27) 18 37:29.654
2. 3 Marc Goossens (78) 18 + 0.128
3. 4 Stienes Longin (11) 18 + 1.857
4. 7 Gianmarco Ercoli (9) 18 + 4.544
5. 6 Loris Hezemans (50) 18 + 5.356
6. 12 Alon Day (54) 18 + 5.950
7. 10 Alex Sedgwick (90) 18 + 6.902
8. 8 Guillaume Deflandre (99) 18 + 8.384
9. 13 Dylan Derdaele (98) 18 + 12.797
10. 19 Ander Vilariño (48) 18 + 18.091
11. 9 Ulysse Delsaux (36) 18 + 18.719
12. 14 Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (70) 18 + 27.744
13. 5 Romain Iannetta (88) 18 + 35.216
14. 20 Jacques Villeneuve (32) 18 + 43.104
15. 17 Henri Tuomaala (23) 18 + 56.247
16. 21 Francesco Sini (12) 18 + 57.060
17. 22 Mauro Trione (31) 18 + 1:01.344
18. 25 Dario Caso (8) 18 + 1:23.067 1
19. 15 Alexander Graff (77) 13 DNF (Mechanical)
20. 24 Salvador Tineo Arroyo (46) 7 + 11 Laps
21. 18 Martin Doubek (7) 3 DNF (Collision Damage)
22. 24 Kenko Miura (2) 1 DNF (Collision)
23. 2 Frédéric Gabillon (3) 1 DNF (Collision)
24. 11 Nicolò Rocca (24) 0 DNF (Collision)
25. 16 Lucas Lasserre (33) 0 DNF (Collision)

1 Dario Caso originally finished 15th, but he received a 30-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Henri Tuomaala.

In the Championship standings, Rocca’s early retirement meant that Loris Hezemans was able to extend his championship lead to 59 points. Stienes Longin remains in third with a 67-point deficit to Hezemans, while Ferrando’s amazing Playoffs run have now put himself in 4th place in the championship with 415 points, 74 points behind Hezemans.

Vilariño is the theoretical last remaining championship contender in 5th with a 76-point deficit. Alon Day, who is currently now in 6th with a 86-point deficit, will not be able to claim his third consecutive title this year as he needs the bonus championship point for the most positions gained to do so and with Day starting on the front row alongside Villeneuve for Sunday’s race, it’s practically impossible for the Israeli driver to be able to earn the bonus points.

Will Hezemans be crowned the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Champion today, or will there be another twist in the 2019 championship tale? Find out today on the final Elite 1 race of the season at Circuit Zolder, live at 16:45 CEST on FansChoice.tv, Motorsport.tv, and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ official Facebook page and YouTube channel.

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

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