Italians Gianmarco Ercoli and Vittorio Ghirelli set the early pace in yesterday’s Free Practice sessions for NASCAR GP Croatia as Giorgio Maggi and Vladimiros Tziortzis showed impressive speed in the field’s first day of outing at Rijeka’s picturesque Automotodrom Grobnik.

Yesterday’s Free Practice sessions marked the start of NASCAR GP Croatia, the third round of the 2020 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season. With Rijeka’s Automotodrom Grobnik being a last-minute addition to the calendar after the round at Autodrom Most was cancelled late in the season, drivers used yesterday’s Practice to acclimatize themselves with the newest circuit in the EuroNASCAR calendar.

In EuroNASCAR PRO, Vallelunga race winner Gianmarco Ercoli set the initial pace as he led both Practice sessions and finished the day with a best lap time of 1:28.838 to put his name on top of the combined timesheets.

“The track gets more fun every time you complete a lap,” said Ercoli to euronascar.com. “There are a lot of bumps and challenging turns around those 4 kilometers. You have to be very careful and sensitive to the car. Due to the flow of the track, passing will be a challenge and that’s why Qualifying will be crucial to score a solid result here in Croatia.”

Only 0.049 seconds separated Ercoli with championship leader Alon Day, who finished the day in second place as Giorgio Maggi showed impressive speed in the No. 18 Hendriks Ford yesterday. Maggi, who has struggled to find pace in EuroNASCAR PRO this year, stayed inside the Top 3 all day long and eventually claimed the third best time in the combined timesheets after the Swiss driver set a best lap time of 1:29.020.

Nicolo Rocca and Stienes Longin completes the Top 5 while Lasse Sørensen had an unusually quiet day in Practice. Sørensen, carrying an Alps-themed scheme in his No. 66 DF1 Camaro, struggled to find pace at Rijeka and a mechanical problem in FP2 meant he only finished the day in 13th place, 1.778 seconds behind Ercoli.

Sørensen isn’t the only championship contender who missed a lot of track time due to mechanical issues, as defending champion Loris Hezemans also suffered an engine problem that persisted throughout the day. Despite this, Hezemans managed to finish the day in 7th place with a time of 1:29.578.

Yesterday’s practice revealed that Martin Doubek is subbing for Daniel Rowbottom once again as a last-minute driver change occurred in the No. 88 CAAL Racing entry. Slovenian driver Mark Škulj, who won ESET Renault Twingo Cup last year, was signed as a replacement driver for Thomas Ferrando after the Frenchman was unable to make it to Rijeka.

EuroNASCAR PRO Practice Results

RANK DRIVER FP1 TIME FP2 TIME
1. Gianmarco Ercoli (54) 1:29.873 1:28.838
2. Alon Day (24) 1:30.145 1:28.887
3. Giorgio Maggi (18) 1:29.985 1:29.020
4. Nicolò Rocca (22) 1:30.531 1:29.062
5. Stienes Longin (11) 1:30.293 1:29.178
6. Marc Goossens (98) 1:30.048 1:29.321
7. Loris Hezemans (50) 1:30.049 1:29.578
8. Martin Doubek (7) 1:32.661 1:30.090
9. Justin Kunz (99) 1:30.443 1:30.109
10. Lucas Lasserre (33) 1:31.135 1:30.309
11. Francesco Sini (12) 1:30.620 1:30.414
12. Davide Dallara (89) 1:32.193 1:30.538
13. Lasse Sørensen (66) 1:30.616 1:30.642
14. Niko Pulić (1) 1:33.160 1:31.257
15. Simon Pilate (6) 1:31.982 1:31.372
16. Dario Caso (8) 1:33.355 1:31.434
17. Mauro Trione (31) 1:31.648 1:32.300
18. Mark Škulj (88) 1:32.868 1:31.864
19. Wilfried Boucenna (46) 1″32.936 1:32.844
20. Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 1:36.194 1:47.616

In EuroNASCAR 2, Vittorio Ghirelli leads a Hendriks Motorsport 1-2-3 as the Italian driver set the fastest lap time out of all drivers in both classes. With a lap time of 1:28.738, Ghirelli became the only driver in EN2 to set a sub-1:29 lap time as Martin Doubek and Tobias Dauenhauer finished the day 0.639 and 0.722 seconds behind Ghirelli respectively.

“We are very happy about the results in Free Practice,” said Ghirelli to euronascar.com. “I felt confident in the car all day and we worked well with the guys from Hendriks Motorsport to improve the balance of the car. The track is very fast and I love to drive here. I will give all my best to keep it up for tomorrow.”

Alex Caffi Motorsport’s Vladimiros Tziortzis had a very impressive day as he finished the first Practice session in 2nd place before ending the day in fourth, 0.865 seconds behind Ghirelli and the only non-Hendriks driver to set a lap time within 1 second of Ghirelli.

Dylan Derdaele completes the Top 5 ahead of Alessandro Brigatti in the No. 8 car that featured a new livery for this weekend. Julia Landauer, Nicholas Risitano, Simon Pilate, and Max Lanza completes the Top 10 with Francesco Garisto just missing out of the Top 10 in his debut ride for Marko Stipp.

Only 17 cars took part in yesterday’s Practice, the lowest car count for EN2 since last year’s race at Venray where only 15 cars started the race. DF1 drivers Andre Castro and Andreas Jochimsen were unable to compete due to the pandemic lockdowns, while Guillaume Dumarey and Eric Quintal also presumed to be unable to race at Rijeka due to the new lockdown regulations imposed throughout Europe following the recent spike in cases.

EuroNASCAR 2 Practice Results

RANK DRIVER FP1 TIME FP2 TIME
1. Vittorio Ghirelli (18) 1:29.283 1:28.738
2. Martin Doubek (7) 1:30.364 1:29.377
3. Tobias Dauenhauer (50) 1:29.917 1:29.460
4. Vladimiros Tziortzis (1) 1:29.794 1:29.603
5. Dylan Derdaele (98) 1:32.442 1:30.584
6. Alessandro Brigatti (8) 1:30.767 1:30.608
7. Julia Landauer (11) 1:32.018 1:30.729
8. Nicholas Risitano (12) 1:30.995 No Time
9. Simon Pilate (6) 1:31.827 No Time
10. Max Lanza (88) 1:32.696 1:32.235
11. Francesco Garisto (46) 1:32.891 1:32.653
12. Giovanni Trione (31) 1:34.589 1:33.300
13. Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 1:33.729 1:33.973
14. Mirco Schultis (70) 1:35.741 1:33.990
15. Frank Riedel (99) 1:37.845 1:36.637
16. Igor Romanov (89) 1:41.817 1:39.721
17. Arianna Casoli (54) 1:46.079 1:42.033

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

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