After winning the Elite 2 and Elite Club title with Lasse Sørensen and Alain Mosqueron last season, DF1 Racing is set to have their most ambitious campaign yet as the team officially announced today that they have signed three-time NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion Ander Vilariño to the team’s roster this year.
Vilariño, now 40 years old, returned to the series last year to compete with the debuting Racing Engineering team following a three-year absence from the series. His return season saw Vilariño sweep the opening races in his home race at Valencia and initially looked to be one of the potential contenders for the championship, but a mid-season slump saw his chances of winning an unprecedented fourth title slowly fade away as the season goes on.
Vilariño laments the performance drop that Racing Engineering suffered last year, describing it as a “nightmare” in an interview with Leadlap weeks after the season ending race at Zolder and it ultimately proved to be a factor in Vilariño’s decision to leave Racing Engineering after the 2019 season ended.
Vilariño, who has signed a contract for 2020 with an option to extend his contract for one more year, will be driving the No. 22 Grapos Soft Drinks Chevrolet Camaro for what would be his sixth NASCAR Whelen Euro Series full season campaign.
The announcement also confirms that the No. 22 team will now fully ran by the Austrian team, after DF1 previously worked together with Marko Stipp Motorsport to field the No. 22 car for Ioannis Smyrlis at Hockenheim last year due to the team’s inability to field an extra car after the team was forced to run a backup car to replace the chassis that was written off in Ellen Lohr’s heavy start line crash at Valencia.
“I am really happy and thankful for the trust Norbert (Walchhofer, DF1’s Head of Motorsport) and Gudrun (Strouhal, DF1 Racing team owner) have in me,” said Vilariño in the official media statement. “I’ll do everything I can to bring good results and contribute to put the best car on the grid. I also look forward to working together with the other DF1 Racing EuroNASCAR PRO drivers and support the EuroNASCAR 2 and Club drivers.”
“Everybody at DF1 Racing is really motivated to win the title and this motivation is not only contagious, it also perfectly matches mine. They are professional but also a family-run team and that is something I love. I believe we can do really good things together.”
Walchhofer himself noted that Vilariño’s addition to the team is a statement of the team’s goal to become the next NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion after their success in Elite 2 and Elite Club last year.
“There is no team that wouldn’t be happy if the three-time NWES champion signs a contract with them,” said Walchhofer in the official media announcement. “Ander visited our workshop for two days to take a look at the base and the work that has been done here. He signed the contract for the 2020 season right afterwards, with an option to keep working together in 2021”.
“Ander is a top driver and together we have the chance to win the EuroNASCAR title. With his NWES experience, he will bring the team forward and also help the young drivers. We will give our best to help Ander win his fourth NWES title.”
After the mid-season slump disappointment last year, Vilariño made it clear that he only has one goal for 2020 – To be the best in every lap, every session, and every race.
“We are all super motivated and this year we are going to give everything we have race by race, session by session and lap after lap,” further adds the Spaniard. “We want to be the fastest and finish every race in the best possible position. Every season is different and all the teams and drivers want to win and this is also a reason why reaching this agreement this soon in the winter is very important. It gives us the right time to prepare for the season and be at our best on the grid in Valencia.”
Vilariño is set to join Justin Kunz, Jacques Villeneuve, and Patrick Lemarie as the four drivers that so far have confirmed their plans to compete in what is now called the EuroNASCAR PRO class in the 2020 season. He is also set to join Kunz and Alain Mosqueron as the drivers that the team have been confirmed as the drivers competing in what would be DF1 Racing’s most ambitious campaign yet.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of DF1 Racing.