2019 Elite 2 standouts Giorgio Maggi, Vittorio Ghirelli, and Andre Castro are all set to continue racing in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series this year after news from the past two days reveals that Maggi and Ghirelli will be sharing driving duties with Hendriks Motorsport’s No. 18 Ford Mustang team, while Andre Castro will be moving to DF1 Racing to partner three-time series champion Ander Vilariño in the No. 22 Chevrolet Camaro.
Maggi, who was signed by Hendriks to become the Elite 2 teammate of eventual series champion Loris Hezemans last year, immediately struck gold when he won his first ever NASCAR race at Valencia. Maggi would finish the year with 3 wins, 8 podiums, and 11 Top-5 finishes. Notably, he overcame a potential DNS to score an impressive victory at Most and set a record for the most consecutive pole positions in the series with six in a row from Race 7 at Most to Race 12 at Zolder.
While he would eventually lose the Elite 2 championship title to Lasse Sørensen in the final race at Zolder, Maggi’s efforts in the No. 50 Ford Mustang was enough to help secure Hendriks Motorsport the team’s first ever Teams Championship title. It’s also enough to secure himself a promotion to the EuroNASCAR PRO class with Hendriks’ new No. 18 team this year.
“I’m very excited to put myself to test at the highest Level of NASCAR in Europe,” said Maggi on his promotion to the PRO class to euronascar.com “It will be a tough challenge, I proved I can put down lap times worth of the EuroNASCAR PRO but being fast is just a small part of racing. Any mistake will be punished much harder, so I used the off-season to go over my whole EuroNASCAR 2 campaign and analyze where I can improve myself. I’m feeling very confident.”
“The special thing about EuroNASCAR is that each event has its own charm, its own audience and its own track characteristics. I’m looking forward to Valencia the most at the moment and I can’t wait to go back racing.”
Ghirelli, the former Auto GP champion, also enjoyed a stellar debut season last year. Initially competing for Racers Motorsport before switching to PK Carsport mid-season, Ghirelli scored a win at Venray, 4 podiums, and 11 Top-10 finishes on his way to finish third in the Elite 2 standings.
It was also a successful year for Ghirelli outside of NASCAR as he was crowned as the 2019 smart EQ fortwo e-cup series champion, becoming ACI Sport’s inaugural alternative energy racing champion as the smart EQ fortwo e-cup series became Italy’s official electric racing championship in 2019.
While Ghirelli has expressed intentions to move up to the PRO class in 2020, he has opted to stay in the EuroNASCAR 2 class to chase the EN2 title once more with Hendriks’ No. 18 Ford Mustang team.
“I only have one result in my mind and that’s winning,” said Ghirelli to euronascar.com. “I start to score the best possible result in each and every race and win the championship. Last year we gained precious experience and now I’m confident to be in a condition both physically and mentally and to have the potential to contend for the title.”
“With Hendriks Motorsport I am sure to have all the tools to deliver and I want to thank them for this opportunity, my family and my fans for their amazing support. Vallelunga is where I started my career, there will be plenty of fans cheering for me. It will be really special.”
For Andre Castro, 2020 will also mark his second season in the EuroNASCAR 2 class following the announcement made yesterday that he will become Ander Vilariño’s new EN2 partner in the No. 22 Chevrolet Camaro team.
Castro, like Maggi and Ghirelli, also had an impressive debut season in 2019 as he scored 4 podium finishes and arguably became the driver that managed to extract the most performance out of Marko Stipp’s No. 46 Ford Mustang car after Castro switched to MSM mid-season. Unfortunately for Castro, he was also one of the unluckiest drivers in the series last year.
We all talked about the infamous last corner collision between him and fellow countryman Myatt Snider at the first race at Valencia, but he also lost a certain victory at Franciacorta after his engine blew on the penultimate lap, got spun out by Maggi whilst fighting for the podium positions at Brands Hatch, and was involved in three separate first lap incidents later in the season.
While his participation in the 2019 season was eventually cut short due to funding issues, Castro will be ready to mount an assault for the EuroNASCAR 2 title once again in 2020 with his new team DF1 Racing.
“I’m thrilled to mount an assault for the EN2 title with DF1 Racing,” said Castro in DF1’s official press release. I will give everything to defend the title for DF1 Racing. I’m looking forward to rewarding the trust that Gudrun Strouhal and Norbert Walchhofer have in me.”
“It’s an honour to work with NWES veterans like Ander Vilariño and Mike Law and I expect to learn a lot from them throughout the course of the season. I’m already counting down the days until my very first full season in auto racing finally begins in Valencia.”
DF1’s Motorsport Director Norbert Walchhofer also have strong hopes for Castro in 2020. He said in the team’s official press release that “Andre has set himself a clear goal for the 2020 season: he wants to become the European NASCAR Champion when he flies back to his home country USA after the final. This fits perfectly with the ambitions we have at DF1 Racing and I’ve always hoped that Andre would get in touch with our team, which in the end he did.”
“His talent perfectly completes the driver duo for the #22 car, which will be driven by Ander Vilarino in the EuroNASCAR PRO championship. We have a ‘tiger strong’ car with two absolute top drivers and I’m convinced that Andre can make his dream of winning the title come true in our team.”
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.