A crash in practice and a mechanical failure in the race meant Loris Hezemans didn’t had the best possible NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series debut race at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, but the great fan atmosphere and an outstanding team effort meant that the defending Euro Series champion will be leaving Mexico City with a huge smile in his face.
As previously recapped, Loris Hezemans was forced to miss Qualifying after he crashed out his No. 05 PEAK Antifreeze / NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Commscope Ford Mustang at Turn 1 in the final Free Practice session. The crash itself causes major damage to the No. 05 Mustang and left Hezemans with the possibility to miss the race altogether, but Morales family’s Escuderia Telmex team was able to rebuild the car overnight to allow Hezemans to compete in Sunday’s race.
“It was an incredible rebuild,” said Hezemans to euronascar.com “When I saw the car initially I thought ‘that’s it, we’re done’, but thankfully it turned out to be more cosmetic and the chassis was all straight. The next day when I arrived at the track, I thought I was dreaming as I saw a car identical to the day before with the same paint & even stickers like nothing had happened. I am really thankful to the whole team for the great job they did. We didn’t get the results we hoped for, but they were phenomenal.”
“It’s a shame that I went off in practice and it’s still bugging me since the driver behind me in the charts on old tires went to P2 once he put stickers [new tires] on.”
The lack of Qualifying time meant that Hezemans was forced to start from last place on the grid. It proved to be a promising start initially as Hezemans was able to climb up to the Top 20 within the first 40 laps and he was battling for the Top 15 positions when he was forced to retire after the No. 05 Mustang suffered a terminal engine failure mid-way through the race.
“I was motivated to fight back in the race but from lap 3 I completely lost my front brakes,” said Hezemans when asked about the struggles that he had to face during the race. “I tried everything from running in clean air to pumping the brakes and adjusting the balance but they did not come back to life. Then, the engine shut off and we had to retire. In the end, I can only be thankful that I still got to take the start after what happened the day before.”
Despite this, the great fan atmosphere and enthusiasm that the Mexican fans brought to the Gran Premio FedEx left a mark on Hezemans, who expressed his desire to compete in the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series again in the future.
“The atmosphere was fantastic, we had a big crowd and the fans are absolutely crazy about NASCAR!” said Hezemans about the atmosphere in Mexico City. “It’s great to see so many people with a passion for it and all the opportunities they have to access drivers and teams. I would love to come back and give the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series another try!”
“The drivers, the team and the fans were some of the most friendly people I met. I want to thank Jimmy Morales and his team for treating me like family and for their incredible hard work, Jerome & Anne Galpin, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and NASCAR for making this opportunity possible, as well as Joe Balash and Victor Pineda and the whole NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series crew for the great time.”
Meanwhile, it was the pole-sitter Salvador de Alba Jr. who secured his third victory of the season after race leader Rubén Rovelo ran out of fuel and had to make a costly splash-and-dash with just three laps to go in Sunday’s 120-lap race. Irwin Vences and Xavi Razo completes the podium while Rovelo’s catastrophic fuel mistake would drop him down to 11th place – the last car on the lead lap – after Rovelo was penalized post-race for leaving his pit box with the gas can still attached to the car during the splash-and-dash stop.
Rubén García Jr., who earlier in the year took part in Euro Series’ season opening round at Valencia, finished in 6th place to clinch his third NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series championship title and tie German Quiroga’s record for the most titles in the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series.