After being so close to the Victory Lane so many times this season, Stienes Longin finally scored the elusive first race win in the Elite 1 class in front of his home crowd as Loris Hezemans was crowned as the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Champion in a race that was heavily affected by torrential rain.
Stienes took the lead of the race from Alon Day on Lap 7 and after he build a gap of 6.5 seconds in the next six laps, worsening track conditions and visibility issues due to a non-functioning windshield wiper would saw Stienes slowly losing the advantage that he had, although it was enough for him to secure his first Elite 1 victory and his first race win in Euro Series since 2016.
Alon Day took the lead early in the race after he got past pole sitter Jacques Villeneuve, but Stienes’ superior pace meant that Day would eventually finished the race in 2nd place as Marc Goossens claimed the final podium spot on the final lap as Jacques Villeneuve – who was in 3rd place entering the final lap – lost four places in the last lap due to visibility issues in his No. 32 Camaro.
“Finally, I fought for it for three seasons, so really happy with the result,” said Stienes to Mark Werrell in the post-race interview. “In the rain, we have such a fast car. Our team and especially our engineer made an awesome car, that’s why we were so fast. But on the last six laps, my wiper was not working so it was really, really stressful.”
“It was actually pretty good,” said Goossens in the post-race interview. “Unfortunately, I didn’t put down a good lap on yesterday on Race 1. So I started on P6, and you know with the condition that we have today, it’s all about spray and visibility and knowing where to place the car and I’ll stay put for a long time and followed Jacques to try see where he was faster and where he was slower.
“But really, I didn’t have much for him until more rain came in the end. I almost lost my car, its just pure luck. I mean aquaplaning and I was just a passenger, but it went the right way for me this time and then for some reason he (Jacques) slowed down in the corner coming down to the back straight and I overtook him on the outside and that was good enough for a podium finish.”
Just like in the Elite 2 race, the rain that hit Zolder all-day long would force the race to start under the Safety Car for the first two laps. Drama already began before the race even starts when Martin Doubek crawls into a stop on the formation lap due to a battery issue in his Ford Mustang, forcing the Czech to miss the start of the last race of the season.
More drama then followed when the green flag was waved on Lap 3, as Dylan Derdale rammed the rear of Alexander Graff’s Camaro before Jacques even crossed the start/finish line to start the third lap of the race, with Sebastiaan Bleekemolen also getting involved in the incident. Derdaele and Bleekemolen retired from the race soon after due to the damage sustained, while Graff was able to continue and would eventually finish the race in 14th place.
Further back on the field, Dario Caso had broken the start procedure as he jumped out of the restart line before the field crossed the start/finish line. Caso then received a drive-through penalty, but he ignored the call to take the drive-through penalty and he was eventually disqualified after he continued to ignore the penalty that he had to take.
In the lead pack, Villeneuve was able to retain the lead coming to the first corner, but Villeneuve struggled to find grip and Stienes and Alon Day passed Villeneuve on the first lap first lap of green flag racing. Day then leads for the next few laps, but Stienes showed better pace in his No. 11 Projob Camaro and it didn’t take long for the Belgian to make his move.
On Lap 7, Stienes had a great exit on the Kleine chicane and he and Day would race side-by-side through Butte before the Belgian would take the lead from Day at the Villeneuve chicane. Afterwards, Stienes raced into the distance and by lap 13, he was 6.5 seconds ahead of Day with Villeneuve, Goossens, and Alex Sedgwick following close by in the battle for the podium spots.
Then, the rain worsened. With standing water all over the track, the race turned into a battle for survival with Thomas Ferrando getting caught out by the torrential rain as he aquaplaned his No. 27 CAAL Racing Ford Mustang to the gravel trap at Turn 1 on the penultimate lap.
Stienes, who had been leading comfortably, is now in big trouble as he had to slow down considerably due to visibility issue as his windshield wiper had broke down on Lap 13. Day was able to slowly reduce the gap that Stienes had built earlier, but in end, there wasn’t enough laps for the Israeli to catch Stienes as Stienes was able to hold on to take the victory in front of the passionate home crowd at Circuit Zolder.
Day eventually finished 2nd as Marc Goossens claimed 3rd place from Jacques Villeneuve on the last lap. Villeneuve had been running in 3rd for the whole race and was still in 3rd when he started his last lap, but unfortunately his car was misting up so much, he practically completed his last lap blind due to the mist preventing Villeneuve to see what’s in front of him. The visibility issue suffered by Villeneuve dropped him down four places and prevents him from scoring a podium finish at a track where his father Gilles lost his life in 1982.
Alex Sedgwick finished in 4th place to not only score his best finish in the Euro Series so far, but to also claim the victory in the Junior Trophy. He described the torrential downpour that affected the last portion of the race as “mental”, with Sedgwick stating in his post-race interview that he had to apply only 20-30% of the throttle on the straight just to prevent the car from spearing off into the barriers.
Gianmarco Ercoli finished the race in 5th, but he didn’t complete his cooldown lap as he stopped his No. 9 Mustang on Turn 1 just after he crossed the line due to a suspected mechanical issue. Loris Hezemans crossed the line right behind him in 6th place to secure not only the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Elite 1 title, but also a berth to compete in the season finale race of the 2019 NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series season at Mexico City this December.
“It’s still a feeling that up until now feels unreal,” said Hezemans in the post-race interview. “I started this season thinking “Could I do it?”. Was there a potential? Yes, but to be here today and be able to say I’m the 2019 Elite 1 champion, it’s just an incredible feeling. It’s great that EuroNASCAR tries to let drivers cross over the pond and try to take part in the Mexico Series. It’s a great opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Villeneuve finished in 7th ahead of Nicolò Rocca, who recovered from a lowly 22nd place starting position due to his involvement in yesterday’s Big One incident to claim the bonus championship points for the most positions gained. Francesco Sini and Lucas Lasserre quietly also had a great recovery drive as they completes the Top 10 after starting from 15th and 23rd from the grid respectively.
Ulysse Delsaux once again barely missed out on a Top 10 finish in 11th place, although Delsaux also had a recovery drive after he was forced to start from the pit lane due to a mechanical issue that prevented him from starting in his original grid spot in 13th place. Ander Vilariño finished in 12th place while his teammate Romain Iannetta finished in 13th after he was forced to start from the pit lane for causing the 17-car pileup on Saturday’s race.
Graff brought home the battered No. 77 Memphis Camaro in 14th place ahead of Guillaume Deflandre, who ran in the Top 10 for the majority of the race before he made a visit for the pit lane late in the race.
Henri Tuomaala finished in 16th, ahead of Salvador Tineo Arroyo, to score yet another victory in the Challenger Trophy as well as sealing his status as the 2019 Challenger Trophy champion. Mauro Trione and Kenko Miura, who finished in 18th and 19th respectively, would round out the Challenger Trophy podium for both the race and the Challenger Trophy final classifications.
Ferrando’s spin left him classified in 20th place ahead of Derdaele and Bleekemolen, who were classified in 21st and 22nd respectively as the result of their front straight collision. The disqualified Dario Caso technically was classified in 23rd as he’s the last car to have taken part in the race.
Martin Doubek’s battery issue left him with yet another Did Not Start to his name in the Elite 1 class record books as Frédéric Gabillon’s impressive streak of starting 84 races consecutively since his debut in 2013 was broken on this race after the Frenchman was forced to not start the final race of the season due to the damage sustained to his car on yesterday’s The Big One proving to be too severe to be fixed in time.
FULL RACE RESULTS
|POS||GRID||DRIVER||LAPS||TIME / GAP|
|1.||3||Stienes Longin (11)||18||37:34.071|
|2.||2||Alon Day (54)||18||+ 2.757|
|3.||6||Marc Goossens (78)||18||+ 10.616|
|4.||4||Alex Sedgwick (90)||18||+ 19.659|
|5.||9||Gianmarco Ercoli (9)||18||+ 21.861|
|6.||5||Loris Hezemans (50)||18||+ 28.993|
|7.||1||Jacques Villeneuve (32)||18||+ 31.037|
|8.||22||Nicolò Rocca (24)||18||+ 40.059|
|9.||15||Francesco Sini (12)||18||+ 47.057|
|10.||23||Lucas Lasserre (33)||18||+ 54.296|
|11.||13||Ulysse Delsaux (36)||18||+ 56.931|
|12.||14||Ander Vilariño (48)||18||+ 57.159|
|13.||PL||Romain Iannetta (88)||18||+ 1:01.062|
|14.||10||Alexander Graff (77)||18||+ 1:05.344|
|15.||7||Guillaume Deflandre (99)||18||+ 1:15.517|
|16.||19||Henri Tuomaala (23)||18||+ 1:29.602|
|17.||17||Salvador Tineo Arroyo (46)||18||+ 1:34.495|
|18.||18||Mauro Trione (31)||18||+ 2:06.240|
|19.||24||Kenko Miura (2)||18||+ 1 Lap|
|20.||8||Thomas Ferrando (27)||16||DNF (Spun Off)|
|21.||11||Dylan Derdaele (98)||3||DNF (Collision)|
|22.||12||Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (69)||2||DNF (Collision)|
|23.||16||Dario Caso (8)||0||DSQ (Disqualified)|
|24.||20||Martin Doubek (7)||0||DNS (Battery)|
|25.||21||Frédéric Gabillon (3)||0||DNS (Collision Damage)|
In the final championship standings, Loris Hezemans was crowned as the youngest Elite 1 champion to date as he tops the 2019 season championship with 551 points, 49 points ahead of Stienes Longin whose fantastic weekend at Zolder proved to be enough to beat his teammate Nicolò Rocca by 3 points. The outgoing champion Alon Day is in 4th with 473 points ahead of Vilariño, who finished in 5th with 463 points in his return to the Euro Series.
Gianmarc Ercoli’s string of Top 5 finishes in the Playoffs is enough to put him in 6th place with 452 points, one point ahead of Thomas Ferrando, whose late retirement in the final race of the season would ultimately cost him a chance to finish the 2019 season in the Top 5. Jacques Villeneuve completes his first full-season of racing since his incomplete final Formula One season 2006 in 8th place, while 2018 Elite 2 Champion Ulysse Delsaux and series veteran Romain Iannetta completes the Top 10 of the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Elite 1 season.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard / Bart Dehaese.