Loris Hezemans fended off Alon Day and Gianmarco Ercoli to score his first race win of 2020 in the season opening EuroNASCAR PRO race at Vallelunga after technical issues late in the race prevented Jacques Villeneuve from scoring his maiden victory in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.

Loris Hezemans once again stands at the top in Vallelunga after the defending champion wins the season opening EuroNASCAR PRO race of 2020 following Jacques Villeneuve’s retirement late in the race.

Starting from pole, Hezemans led for the first 5 laps and was battling Alon Day for the lead in the sixth lap when Villeneuve found a way past both drivers at Soratte to take the lead of the race. The Canadian was looking to be on course for a maiden victory when he suddenly pulled off-track at Cimini on the penultimate lap due to a mechanical issue, handing the lead back to Hezemans who led the final two laps to win the race.

 “For me, it was a tough race to be honest,” said Hezemans in the Victory Lane. “We’re really struggling with setup issues. Maybe it’s down to me, but the car felt really loose so we want to go back and try to work on it. I’m super happy but gutted to see what happened to Jacques because for me, I don’t count it as a real win because somebody retired.”

“I don’t think I had the pace to overtake him, but let’s try to improve in Race 2 and come back stronger.”

Alon Day eventually finished just 1 second behind Hezemans as the two-time series champion scored a podium finish in his first race for PK Carsport.

“That was a good race, it was a really hard fight with Hezemans and Jacques. I don’t know what happened to Jacques, but it was a good fight. Unfortunately, we couldn’t win because I’m pretty sure the car’s capable of winning. I hope in the next race we can bring the Monster Energy car to win,” said Alon Day post-race.

Gianmarco Ercoli also brought home a podium finish in his first race with his new team CAAL Racing as the Italian eventually grabbed third after JV’s late retirement promoted him into the podium positions.

“I’m happy, but in Friday afternoon I think it’s possible for us to win. Today in Practice, we have some problems with the setup, but the team worked hard to fix the condition and with P3, I think it’s good for our season,” said Ercoli in the post-race interview.

Lucas Lasserre and Stienes Longin completes the Top 5 as Lasse Sørensen once again showed his comeback abilities. Having famously won from last at Brands Hatch last year, Sørensen steadily climbed up the running order during the race as the Dane eventually finished the 18-lap race just 12.622 seconds behind Hezemans in 6th place.

Sørensen also grabbed both the 4 bonus championship points for the most positions gained during the race and the fastest lap that will give him pole position for Race 2.

Photo courtesy of Not Only Motorsport

The Italian contingent of Francesco Sini, Nicolò Rocca, Luigi Ferrara, and Davide Dallara completes the Top 10. Dallara, who was called up by his team Not Only Motorsport to replace Fabio Spatafora at the last minute after Spatafora failed to set a lap time within 110 percent of the fastest time during Qualifying, also brought home the honors in the Challenger Trophy despite being sent to the back of the grid at the start as a result of the driver change.

Patrick Lemarie and Dario Caso finished in 11th and 12th place respectively as the last cars still in the lead lap. Evgeny Sokolovsky was lapped by the leaders on the closing laps of the race on his way to 13th place, while Mauro Trione and Giorgio Maggi also finished a lap down in 14th and 15th after having an unscheduled pit stop, with Maggi also having to take a drive through penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Marc Goossens that took out the Belgian early in the race.

Photo courtesy of Mario Schlimper

Villeneuve was classified in 16th ahead of Daniel Rowbottom, whose impressive Qualifying performance was left unrewarded after the Brit was forced to retire due to gearbox issues. Stefano Attianese finished 3 laps down in 18th place after he brought home a damaged No. 1 Alex Caffi Motorsport Ford following a collision with Bernardo Manfrè on Lap 6 that eliminated the Shadow driver from the race.

CAAL Racing’s No. 88 team again suffered an engine issue as Thomas Ferrando had to take an unscheduled stop to fix another engine issue that left him 5 laps down in the end. Manfre was classified in 20th ahead of Justin Kunz, whose mechanical issues proved to be terminal once again while Goossens was classified in 22nd and last place.

RACE RESULTS

POS GRID DRIVER LAPS TIME / GAP
1. 1 Loris Hezemans (50) 18 30:46.451
2. 2 Alon Day (24) 18 + 1.055
3. 5 Gianmarco Ercoli (54) 18 + 1.288
4. 7 Lucas Lasserre (33) 18 + 6.716
5. 6 Stienes Longin (11) 18 + 9.415
6. 22 Lasse Sørensen (66) 18 + 12.622
7. 10 Francesco Sini (12) 18 + 16.433
8. 8 Nicolò Rocca (22) 18 + 23.635
9. 12 Luigi Ferrara (42) 18 + 36.505
10. 21 1 Davide Dallara (89) 18 + 56.326
11. 11 Patrick Lemarié (6) 18 + 1:18.276
12. 15 Dario Caso (8) 18 + 1:22.785
13. 20 Evgeny Sokolovsky (46) 17 + 1 Lap
14. 16 Mauro Trione (31) 17 + 1 Lap
15. 13 Giorgio Maggi (18) 17 + 1 Lap
16. 3 Jacques Villeneuve (5) 16 DNF (Mechanical)
17. 4 Daniel Rowbottom (7) 15 DNF (Gearbox)
18. 17 Stefano Attianese (1) 15 + 3 Laps
19. 9 Thomas Ferrando (88) 13 + 5 Laps
20. 18 Bernardo Manfrè (17) 5 DNF (Collision)
21. 19 Justin Kunz (99) 3 DNF (Mechanical)
22. 14 Marc Goossens (98) 2 DNF (Collision)

Dallara was sent to the back of the field at the start after a driver change between Qualifying and Race 1.

Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.  

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