After nearly a year of waiting, 21 of the best racing drivers in the world are ready to compete in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ top EuroNASCAR PRO class for a shot at winning the 2020 title starting from this weekend’s Delphix / NSR American Festival of Rome at Vallelunga.
This weekend on 12-13 September, the long awaited 2020 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season will finally start with the Delphix / NSR American Festival of Rome held at Euro Series’ newest track added to the calendar, Autodromo Vallelunga. In Euro Series’ top class EuroNASCAR PRO, a total of 21 drivers are ready to compete against each other as they all will begin their quest to win the 2020 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series championship title.
Defending series champion Loris Hezemans are poised to defend the title that he won in 2019. Listed by Leadlap’s Andre Wiegold as his early championship favorite pick, Hezemans boasted an impressive tally of 4 wins, 6 podiums, and 11 Top-10 finishes in his 2019 championship winning campaign and he would be looking to improve upon what he had achieved last year.
Joining Hezemans at Hendriks this year would be Giorgio Maggi and Daniel Rowbottom. Maggi, who nearly won the EuroNASCAR 2 title and helped carry Hendriks to the Teams Championship title last year, will be looking to make a solid first impression for the senior PRO class drivers at Vallelunga in his No. 18 Ford.
As for Rowbottom, he is poised to make his debut at Vallelunga as he could possibly become the first British driver to compete in Euro Series for the full season if he stayed in the No. 7 Hendriks team all the way until Valencia.
PK Carsport, Hezemans’ closest rivals in 2019, will be coming to 2020 with their arguably strongest driver line-up yet. Stienes Longin once again will return to PK’s No. 11 team and is certainly a clear candidate for the title, thanks to his maiden PRO class victory at Zolder and a string of 2nd place finishes last year that he got on his way to his 2nd place finish in the overall standings last year.
PK’s championship bid will be bolstered by the addition of Alon Day to the No. 24 team. Day, who made the shock decision to switch to his rival team during the pre-season, will once again will be a driver to watch for in 2020 thanks to his driving skills that have rewarded him with 2 championship titles, 20 race wins, and two separate chances to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Nicolò Rocca, who drove for the No. 24 team on his way to finish 3rd in the standings last year, will be poised to make another shot at the title with a new team in DF1 Racing. Having been signed at the last minute after Ander Vilariño’s withdrawal from the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rocca will be hoping to secure a victory or two in his new home race on his debut race with the Austrian team.
Speaking of DF1, do not count out Lasse Sørensen from the title contention. Sørensen showed he had the pace to compete at the top immediately, as shown by his utter domination in the EuroNASCAR 2 class in 2019 that resulted in the “big Dane” winning the title despite not competing in the first two races of the season. Given his already impressive PRO class debut at Brands Hatch last year, Sørensen will sure be a driver to watch in 2020.
Jacques Villeneuve is also a driver looking to leave a bigger mark in Euro Series this year. JV has been really serious in his 2020 title campaign so far, as shown by the fact that his co-owned team FEED Vict Racing was the first Euro Series team to come back to the track to do their pre-season testing after the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. Given the amount of tests FEED Vict have done at Vallelunga in the lead-up to this weekend’s race, anything less than a podium would be a disappointing result for JV and the FEED Vict team.
As for home team CAAL Racing, they will be bringing three potential race winners in Thomas Ferrando, Gianmarco Ercoli, and Marc Goossens for their new home race. Thomas Ferrando, fresh from his maiden PRO class victory at the Saturday Zolder race last year, will be looking to secure strong results at Vallelunga to answer CAAL’s faith in the young Frenchman as CAAL, just like DF1 and Rocca, signed him at the last minute to replace a withdrawing driver, which in Ferrando’s case is ex-F1 driver Gianni Morbidelli.
Gianmarco Ercoli will now lead CAAL’s flagship No. 54 car following Day’s departure to PK Carsport. Carrying a string of consecutive Top-5 finishes in the Playoffs races that landed him a career-best 6th place finish in the standings last year, Ercoli will be hoping to carry over the success that Day had achieved in the No. 54 team for this year.
As for Marc Goossens, his CAAL ride meant that he’s ready to compete for the full season for the first time in his Euro Series career. Despite being 50 years old already, Goossens has showed incredible pace throughout his sporadic part-time appearances in Euro Series and with a drive at one of Euro Series’ powerhouse teams, “The Goose” will be ready to fight for the overall title for the first time in the No. 98 team.
Lucas Lasserre will be looking forward to starting the 2020 season with a clean slate after a tough 2019 season saw the Frenchman had a “checkers or wreckers” situation all-year long. Except for his 17th place finish at Franciacorta 1, he either finished in the Top 10 or failed to make it to the finish line. Lasserre sure knows how to fight for the title, but he will be needing a better luck if he wants to make another serious bid at the Euro Series title this year.
Another driver wanting to leave their mark is the 42 Racing duo of Bernardo Manfrè and Luigi Ferrara. Ferrara will be hoping that his No. 42 Mustang can achieve a Top-5 finish like he did on his debut race at Franciacorta last year, while Manfrè will be looking to put a solid first impression for his revived Shadow brand with a solid finish in his home race.
Five drivers will make their PRO class debuts at Vallelunga – Maggi, Rowbottom, Manfrè, Patrick Lemarié, and Evgeny Sokolovsky. Lemarié will be returning to driving duties for the first time since 2003, while Sokolovsky’s appearance meant that a Ukrainian driver will be racing in Euro Series for the first time ever.
EuroNASCAR PRO class drivers will be hitting the track at Sunday, with all on-track sessions being held on the same day as part of the compact weekend format that Euro Series will trial upon for this weekend to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
All races and qualifying season will be streamed live on Motorsport.tv and the official YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch channels of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. For Italian viewers, the race will be aired live on Sky Canale 228’s MS Motor TV.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in the article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.