Traditionally, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series races are held as a doubleheader event. One race each for both classes will be held on each day, with the first EuroNASCAR PRO class race starting the day on Saturday and the second EuroNASCAR 2 class race starting the action for Sunday. There are exceptions to this, with the single race format that Venray implemented upon its return to the calendar in 2019 being an example of it.
One race format that Euro Series have used in the past, however, proved to be weirder than the current race formats used in the series. The format is called “Sprint” and “Endurance”, and it’s used in the 2012 season as a relic of the race format used in the Racecar Euro Series.
For the most part, the Sprint and Endurance format is similar to the doubleheader. The Sprint races acts just like the races that we see in the modern Euro Series, but unlike the modern Euro Series where the maximum race distance is fixed (75 km for PRO, 60 km for EN2), the race distance in Sprint races varies from track to track. Tracks like Nogaro and Brands Hatch was set for 50 kilometers, while the race at Spa-Francorchamps was ran for 70 kilometers.
As for the Endurance races, they were held in a completely different manner. First, instead of being ran into a pre-determined lap count, the Endurance races were set to be held for approximately one hour. The second and the biggest difference with Endurance races, however, is that there are driver changes.
The PRO class – or Elite as it was called back then – drivers always starts the Endurance race first and at half-distance, the race timer will be frozen and the Elite drivers will enter the pits to hand over their car to their EN2 – Open as it was called back then – class teammates. Once the driver change is completed, the grid is then re-ordered once again before the green flag was waved to signal the start of the Open class half of the race, held until the one-hour time limit is reached.
This brought upon some interesting implications. A major one is that despite the race being called “Endurance”, the results for this race is not determined by the result at the end of the race. Rather, the race results were counted separately for both classes and it is determined by the results of each half.
The results for the Elite class drivers are counted from the actual start of the race until the half-distance driver switch mark, while the Open class results are counted from the restart after the driver switch until the actual end of the race.
The result separation brought incentive for teams to repair their cars should their Elite class driver retired from their race, as they will be allowed to re-enter the Open class portion of the race if officials deemed the car is race worthy. As the race was held continuously, it also meant that it is practically mandatory for a team to enter a driver in both classes, although a driver can do the double duty if they or the team wishes to do so.
The Sprint and Endurance format was discontinued and replaced with the current doubleheader format starting from the 2013 season. The Endurance format did briefly live on that year as a non-championship 6-hour Endurance race that was planned to be held at Motorland Aragon between the races at Tours and Monza, but judging by the lack of data present, it is safe to presume that the event was cancelled before it was held.
The Sprint and Endurance race format proved to be unlike anything ever seen in NASCAR before or since, but it was a reminder of how the series started from its roots in France, utilizing endurance race elements and a collaboration with the likes of Stéphane Ratel Organization (SRO) and DTM to held its races as a supporting event to help attract race fans to the then-new racing series.
Eventually, the series gained enough credibility to be able to hold its own standalone events, and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series would grow to become the biggest stock car racing series in Europe and a fine addition to the NASCAR family.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.