On 7 and 8 November, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will be hosting the first Test Day session of the 2020 Drivers Recruitment Program. Earlier today, the series has announced in their social media feeds that 12 drivers have been selected to take part in the upcoming Test Day session at Euro Series’ official test track Circuit De Fontenay-Le-Comte at France.
The 12 drivers that will take part in today and tomorrow’s Test Day, along with the currently-unannounced drivers for the 12-13 December test, will be fighting for an opportunity to earn a “scholarship” that will provide the financial aid for the chosen drivers to be able to compete in the 2020 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season.
The Drivers Recruitment Program has seen high-profile names such as the 1997 Formula One champion and current Euro Series driver Jacques Villeneuve, Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat, and ex-250cc World Champion Marco Melandri taking part in the previous editions, and the defending NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion Loris Hezemans made the first steps of his NASCAR career via this program.
To help racing fans to know who the 12 selected drivers are, we’re giving you a short rundown on the profiles for each driver that are scheduled to take part in the November Test Day of the 2020 Drivers Recruitment Program.
Date of Birth: 15 December 1997
Birth Place: South Miami, Florida, United States
The sole participant to come from the United States, Zachary “Zach” M. Banks has been known for his successes in his karting career. In his home state of Florida, he has won 4 regional championship titles – the 2014 Homestead Regional Championship, the 2015 South Florida TAG Championship, the 2015 Florida Senior State Championship, and the 2016 OGP Regional Summer Championship. He also has made a name for himself in the national karting championships as he has won 5 United States ROK National Championship races and finished 3rd in the standings for the 2017 United States ROK season.
Further successes in the ROK Senior class of the Monticello Championship Series would follow before Banks officially earned his racing license in August 2019. Today, he will be making his first steps to advance his motorsport career as he will take part in the 2020 Drivers Recruitment Program to potentially earn a shot to compete in the 2020 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Date of Birth: 27 November 1997
Birth Place: Heppenheim, Germany
Coming from the same city where 4-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel is born, Tobias Dauenhauer boasts an impressive resume in his karting career with 3 championship titles in the ADAC karting championships – including winning the X30 Senior class in the ADAC Kart Masters for two consecutive years – before he made his racing career in 2017.
Having scored a 2nd place finish in the standings of VLN’s VT2 class in 2017, he made his international racing debut the following year as he took part in the 2018 Total 24 Hours of Spa with Aust Motorsport. It was here that Dauenhauer first met Loris Hezemans, as both drivers became teammates in the Aust Motorsport Audi R8 LMS at Spa.
Hezemans would eventually introduce Dauenhauer to NASCAR as he invited Dauenhauer to the American Fan Fest Semi Finals at Hockenheim earlier this year as a guest for Hendriks Motorsport. Having competed in a part-time campaign in the ADAC GT4 Germany this year, Dauenhauer is scheduled to make his first laps in a NASCAR stock car today as part of the Drivers Recruitment Program, two months after his first visit to a EuroNASCAR race week.
Date of Birth: 6 August 1997
Birth Place: Bad Hersfeld, Germany
Marcel Lenerz has been building up his racing career since he graduated from ADAC Kart Masters’ KF2 Karting Championship in 2013. First making his racing debut in the 2013 ADAC Formel Masters season, he continued his open-wheel career with participations in the Formula Renault 1.6 NEC and the ADAC Formula 4 Championship before he made the move to sports car racing with the BMW M235i Racing Cup in 2017.
2019 marked his first year of competing in the VLN as he scored some respectable results in Adrenalin Motorsport’s factory-supported BMW M4 GT4. He will start a new chapter on his experienced career as he’s scheduled to test out the EuroNASCAR cars for the first time in the Drivers Recruitment Program’s Test Day today.
Date of Birth: 22 February 1987
Birth Place: Nijmegen, Netherlands
The owner-driver of the Stuart Racing Team that currently competes in the Ford Fiesta Sprint Cup championship, Liroy Stuart has scored some impressive results when competing in the junior formula championships, scoring multiple podium finishes in various Formula Ford championships and in Formula Renault. Fans of the defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden might recognize Stuart’s name, as Stuart was Newgarden’s teammate when they competed for Joe Tandy Racing (JTR) in the 2009 British Formula Ford Championship.
Having made the move to sports car racing when he switched from Formula Renault 2.0 NEC to Renault Clio Cup Netherlands in 2012, Stuart has since continued to race in sports car racing as well as managing Stuart Racing Team, whom he founded in 2006. Today, he will be making his first laps in a NASCAR stock car as he’s also going to be reunited with one of his former drivers, the above-mentioned Marcel Lenerz, who drove for Stuart in the 2014 Formula Renault 1.6 NEC Championship.
Date of Birth: 14 February 1998
Birth Place: Courbevoie, France
Having started his racing career in karting in 2014, Antoine “Tonio” Sansone made the switch from karting to car racing in 2017 when he tested out various type of racing cars, such as a Peugeot 208 Racing Cup car, a Ginetta G55 GT4 car, and the Griiip G1 single-seater car. He then tested out an Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR car in 2018 and began to work as a simulator driver on the same year. He was supposed to make his racing debut in the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy race at Paris on April 2019, but sponsorship issues meant that the deal failed to materialize. Thus, he will be hoping that his participation in the Drivers Recruitment Program’s Test Day today can lead to his first official racing debut.
Pim van Riet
Date of Birth: 29 May 1963
Birth Place: Haarlem, Netherlands
With a racing career that has spanned since 1991, Pim van Riet certainly boasts the experience with successes on various touring and sports car racing categories. A former Clio Cup champion who has also scored successes in the Dutch Supercar Challenge and Megane Trophy, Pim will be looking to follow the footsteps of the Bleekemolens as he and his son Lorenzo will be taking part in their first stock car test in the 2020 Drivers Recruitment Program.
Lorenzo van Riet
Date of Birth: 20 July 1999
Birth Place: Netherlands
Pim’s son, Lorenzo van Riet, enjoyed a stellar 2019 as he scored 2 victories and 7 podium finishes in the Dutch Supercar Challenge to finish 2nd in the overall Supersport 1 class standings. Having made his karting debut in 2012 and switching to car racing in 2018 with his participation in the Ford Fiesta Sprint Cup, Lorenzo and his dad will be testing out a different beast today as they will become the second father-son duo to take part in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Drivers Recruitment Program.
Date of Birth: 12 February 1952
Birth Place: Paris, France
At the age of 67, Patrick Gaillard will be the oldest driver to take part in the November Test Day session of the 2020 Drivers Recruitment Program. Taking up racing relatively late in his life, he won races in the European Formula Three Championship before he eventually made his Formula One debut with Ensign Racing in the 1979 FIA Formula One World Championship. Entering 5 races, Gaillard struggled as he only successfully made it to the grid in 2 races and he scored a best finish of 13th place in the 1979 British Grand Prix.
After he was replaced by Marc Surer at Ensign, he competed in Formula 2, the revived Can-Am, and the World Sportscar Championship before he retired from racing in 1985. Having taken up a job as a racing instructor for AGS for many years in his post-retirement years, Gaillard has been selected by NASCAR Whelen Euro Series as one of the 12 drivers that is scheduled to take part in today’s Driver Recruitment Program Test Day session.
Date of Birth: 12 March 1958
Birth Place: Belo Horizonte, Brazil
One of the only two drivers to have taken part in a NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race week before, Deo Alves has been taking part in several meetings of the series’ regularity-based class EuroNASCAR Club Challenge – then known as Elite Club – since the class’ foundation in 2017. After taking part in the Elite Club meetings at Franciacorta and Zolder this year, Alves will be looking for an opportunity to further extend his career in NASCAR as he’s scheduled to take part in today’s Drivers Recruitment Program at Fontenay.
Date of Birth:
Birth Place: Monza, Italy
Previously competing in karting and in the Italian F4 Championship, Francesco Garisto made a switch to Lotus Cup Italia in 2019 and enjoyed a successful debut season as he finished 3rd in the overall standings after scoring 1 victory and 6 podium finishes. It was through the Lotus Cup Italia that he made his first exposure to the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, as Lotus Cup Italia was one of the championships that became a supporting event for the 2019 NASCAR GP of Italy at Franciacorta earlier this year. Going from a little Lotus to a NASCAR stock car is certainly going to be a challenge for the young Italian as he is set to take part in his first stock car test at Fontenay today.
Date of Birth: 12 May 1982
Birth Place: Bari, Italy
Along with Deo Alves, Ferrara is one of the only two drivers scheduled to take part in today’s Drivers Recruitment Program to have taken part in a race week before. Debuting for 42 Racing in the Elite 1 class at his home race in Franciacorta earlier this year, Ferrara impressed in his debut race week as he scored a Top 5 finish in his very first race and was on course for another Top 10 finish on Race 2 before he was forced to retire midway through the race due to a suspension failure in his Ford Mustang.
With a long career across various racing categories that has included championship titles in Formula 3 Italy and Porsche Carrera Cup, Ferrara is hoping that the opportunity to take part in the Drivers Recruitment Program will allow him to compete in more races for the 2020 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season.
Date of Birth: 16 November 1999
Birth Place: Nimes, France
The youngest driver to take part in today’s Drivers Recruitment Program, Charles Benazet-Lacarre has been obsessed with oval racing and NASCAR since he discovered the sport in 2008. His official website notes how his birth date, 16 November, coincides with the week of the Homestead season finale race, the date of Richard Petty’s final race and Jeff Gordon’s first Cup race (both happened at the 1992 Hooters 500, which was aired in France on 16 November) as well as the date of the 2008 Ford 400, the race where Jimmie Johnson clinched his third Cup Series title.
Starting his karting career in 2010 with a kart that he called “Hold”, he experienced a rapid rise in the karting ladder before his career was nearly cut short in July 2013 when he suffered a serious accident during a practice run as a result of a brake failure. The accident left him with serious head and back injuries, yet he fought back and recovered in time to be able to test the previous-generation NASCAR Whelen Euro Series car on the eve of his 14th birthday at Le Mans. He even had the opportunity to test a NASCAR Cup car at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2016.
This year, Lacarre continued to build his dreams to compete in NASCAR as he enjoyed a very successful debut season in Raceway Venray’s V8 Oval Series, scoring 6 race wins in his first 15 heat races with Bachor Racingteam. Lacarre will be relishing the opportunity to test out the current generation cars of the series as he looks to achieve his goal to compete in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Disclaimer: All photos used in this article are courtesy of the respective sources.