After a podium finish in Race 1 earlier that day, Sunday’s Race 2 confirms Gianmarco Ercoli’s status as one of the primary title contenders this year as he won in his home track after leading from start to finish despite some post-race controversy.
EDIT: We apologize for a writing mistake that we did where we mentioned that Dario Caso had a 30-second penalty and a 40-second penalty together. It was supposed to be just the 40-second one.
Sunday’s EuroNASCAR PRO Race 2 proved to be a race to remember for home driver Gianmarco Ercoli as he won the final race of the Vallelunga race week to confirm himself as one of the primary title contenders in 2020.
Starting from the front row, he grabbed the lead from pole sitter Lasse Sørensen right at the start in a move that proved to be controversial as several people, such as Sørensen and Andre Castro in the commentary booth, noticed that Ercoli jumped the gun early at the start.
Despite this, the move went unnoticed by the stewards and Ercoli stayed in the lead for the entirety of the 18-lap race to secure his second win in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in just his second race for CAAL Racing. It was not an easy race for the Italian though as he had to fend off his lead from the challenge given by Sørensen, Jacques Villeneuve, Lucas Lassere, and Alon Day.
“It’s a very good weekend!” said Ercoli in the Victory Lane. “The car was very fast on Friday but this morning in Qualifying, we can’t do better. After the team worked on the car, for Race 1 we got close to the podium and now I start 2nd and I finished first.”
“It’s a big return with CAAL Racing because I raced with the team in 2014 and this year I returned and now I scored my first victory (with the team), so it’s fantastic for me.”
Jacques Villeneuve recovered from missing out a possible first victory in Race 1 to finish a career-best 2nd place in Race 2 after an intense battle with Lasserre and Sorensen. The Canadian was third when he passed Lasserre at Turn 7 on the last lap after the Frenchman ran wide due to oil dumped by Stefano Attiannese’s No. 1 car.
“It’s a shame that this morning it could’ve been a victory (for us), so I’m still a little bit frustrated we got second place. But overall the car was quick, the chassis is good, and it doesn’t use up the tires too much. It was really hard because the engine overheated after going off in the grass in the first lap and because of that, the engine went down a little bit so it was lacking power, but the car was very good and it’s a very fun race,” said JV post-race.
Lucas Lasserre improves upon what he had achieved in the first race after the Frenchman scored his first podium finish since the Hockenheim round in 2018. Alon Day and poleman Sørensen completes the Top 5.
Race 1 winner Loris Hezemans struggled in the second race as he can only finish in sixth place after a poor start saw the champion briefly dropped down to 11th at one point. Francesco Sini finished 7th despite missing his front-right bumper after a collision with Stienes Longin, who eventually finished in 9th behind Nicolò Rocca.
Patrick Lemarié completes the Top 10 as Marc Goossens recovered from his first race incident to finish in 11th, securing the most positions gained bonus points along the way. Giorgio Maggi again had a tough race as he finished 12th ahead of Dario Caso, who was slapped with two penalties post-race – A 40-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision and a 21-point deduction in the standings.
Shadow drivers Bernardo Manfrè and Luigi Ferrara completes the Top 15 – with Manfrè also bringing home the Challenger Trophy honors – as Evgeny Sokolovsky finished 16th as the last car finishing the race, one lap down from the leaders. Attianese was classified in 17th after his engine failure ahead of Mauro Trione, who retired from a possible Top 10 finish after a mechanical failure late in the race.
It was yet another tough race for Daniel Rowbottom, as he was one of the three drivers that received a drive-through penalty for weaving out of the start formation too early. Later in the race, he had recovered to the Top 15 when he was seen running off the track on Lap 11 at Curva Grande.
Rowbottom retired his car a couple of laps later and to make matters worse for Rowbottom, he was stripped from his Race 2 points as revealed in the standings. Despite this, Rowbottom again showcased his potential as he scored the fastest lap of the race.
Thomas Ferrando again suffered a mechanical trouble that led him to become the first retirement of the race as Justin Kunz and Davide Dallara failed to make the start of Race 2.
|POS||GRID||DRIVER||LAPS||TIME / GAP|
|1.||2||Gianmarco Ercoli (54)||18||30:58.841|
|2.||4||Jacques Villeneuve (5)||18||+ 1.706|
|3.||3||Lucas Lasserre (33)||18||+ 2.392|
|4.||5||Alon Day (24)||18||+ 2.571|
|5.||1||Lasse Sørensen (66)||18||+ 5.941|
|6.||6||Loris Hezemans (50)||18||+ 8.868|
|7.||10||Francesco Sini (12)||18||+ 18.314|
|8.||9||Nicolò Rocca (22)||18||+ 20.371|
|9.||8||Stienes Longin (11)||18||+ 27.269|
|10.||15||Patrick Lemarié (6)||18||+ 30.159|
|11.||17||Marc Goossens (98)||18||+ 32.296|
|12.||13||Giorgio Maggi (18)||18||+ 32.643|
|13.||16||Dario Caso (8)||18||+ 1:20.3901|
|14.||19||Bernardo Manfrè (17)||18||+ 1:23.397|
|15.||11||Luigi Ferrara (42)||18||+ 1:23.421|
|16.||20||Evgeny Sokolovsky (46)||17||+ 1 Lap|
|17.||18||Stefano Attianese (1)||16||DNF (Engine)|
|18.||14||Mauro Trione (31)||13||DNF (Mechanical)|
|19.||7||Daniel Rowbottom (7)||11||DNF (Mechanical)|
|20.||12||Thomas Ferrando (88)||5||DNF (Engine)|
|21.||21||Davide Dallara (89)||0||DNS (Did Not Start)|
|22.||22||Justin Kunz (99)||0||DNS (Did Not Start)|
1 Caso received a 40-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision, although this does not affect his results.
In the championship standings, Gianmarco Ercoli was supposed to come out from Vallelunga as the championship leader, but he received a 10-points penalty after stewards reviewed the race start incident and determined that Ercoli was indeed guilty of making a jump start.
The penalty meant that Loris Hezemans will be entering Zolder as the championship leader instead, with Alon Day tailing Hezemans by three points in second place. Tied with 67 points and sitting one point behind Day is Lasserre and Sørensen, although Lasserre was ahead by virtue of tiebreakers. Ercoli’s post-race penalty dropped him to 5th while Villeneuve’s Race 1 DNF meant that he is only 9th in the current championship standings.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in the article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard / Sofric Studio.