Last weekend’s news saw the father-son duo of Michael and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, Igor Romanov, Nicolò Gabossi, Simona Lenci, Gordon Barnes, and Andreas Kuchelbacher all announcing their return to the series in 2021 as DF1 made the surprise decision to switch Justin Kunz into EuroNASCAR 2 for a better chance of claiming the drivers and teams title.
With less than half a month to go before the start of the 2021 season at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, there have been multiple news regarding the drivers and/or teams due to compete in the upcoming season that were announced last weekend. As a result, this article will be recapping all of the latest developments on the drivers and/or teams that were announced throughout the weekend.
Michael and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen Confirms Return to EuroNASCAR
Michael and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen will be making a comeback to NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2021 after it was announced on April 30 that they will be returning to the series with Team Bleekemolen.
The Bleekemolen family joins the list of drivers that has confirmed their intentions of returning to the series in 2021 after withdrawing from the 2020 season due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Team Bleekemolen would once again race the No. 69 Ford Mustang with Hendriks Motorsport continuing to provide assistance to the team.
“For me personally EuroNASCAR is one of the nicest championships around and it’s a real challenge”, said Sebastiaan to euronascar.com. “2019 was a learning year for us and we had some difficulties with the technique of the car, especially the brakes. It was not the start we wanted but we are prepared to do better this year.”
“We will start testing next week and it will be my first time in the Ford Mustang since 2019. I’m really looking forward to firing the engine again.”
Sebastiaan, older brother of IMSA racer Jeroen Bleekemolen, will once again race the No. 69 car in the EuroNASCAR PRO class while father Michael would be competing in the EuroNASCAR 2 class.
At 71 years old, Michael Bleekemolen shows no signs of slowing down as he chases for a Legend Trophy after losing a closely-contentested fight with fellow returning driver Ian Eric Waden in 2019. Both drivers finished tied on points, but Michael lost the Legend Trophy by virtue of tiebreakers – 7 Legend Trophy wins for Waden in comparison to Michael’s 3 – even though his higher race finishing position meant that he beat Waden in the overall standings.
“I will share the car again with my father Michael, who’s 71 years old right now”, said Sebastiaan, who’s very proud of his father. “He still has got the enthusiasm and fascination for racing like a teenager.”
Igor Romanov, Nicolò Gabossi, and Simona Lenci to Compete with Not Only Motorsport
Igor Romanov, Nicolò Gabossi, and Simona Lenci has all been confirmed to be competing with Not Only Motorsport in the upcoming 2021 season. Romanov announced the news on his social media account while Gabossi and Lenci’s participation was announced by Not Only themselves.
“Now it’s official,” said Romanov on social media. “My adventures with the incredible Not Only Motorsport team at Nascar Whelen Euro Series will continue. See you in Valencia!”
Romanov, the Ukrainian driver and journalist, first made his debut in the series last year as the EuroNASCAR 2 driver of Not Only at Zolder and Rijeka. Like teammate Davide Dallara, Romanov wasn’t supposed to compete in EuroNASCAR 2 at first – he was due to compete in Club Challenge – but he received a sudden promotion to EN2 as an after effect of Fabio Spatafora’s dismissal and Dallara’s subsequent promotion to the top class.
With very little experience of driving the EuroNASCAR cars prior to the race week at Zolder, Romanov predictably struggled on his debut year as he often found himself in the tail end of the field.
He did, however, managed to bring the car home in one piece in all of the 4 races he took part and with him returning to the No. 89 car as the teammate for the previously-confirmed Dallara, he will be hoping to achieve a better pace consistency in 2021.
As for Nicolò Gabossi, his seat was confirmed on April 30 after he was announced as the winner of Not Only’s “Be a NASCAR Driver” contest. The contest, aimed at drivers wishing to compete in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, would see the winner receive a full-time seat with the team in the Club Challenge division.
Italian rally driver Simona Lenci will accompany Gabossi on his debut Club Challenge campaign after she was announced as the Club Challenge driver of the team’s No. 90 car on May 1. Just like Gabossi, Lenci would also made her series debut with her Club Challenge participation in 2021.
Gordon Barnes and Andreas Kuchelbacher Spearheads MSM’s Club Challenge Squad
Marko Stipp Motorsport is ready to enter the regularity-based Club Challenge division with a very strong lineup of drivers after it was announced that Gordon Barnes and inaugural Club Challenge champion Andreas Kuchelbacher will be driving for MSM this year.
Barnes, one of the only three full-time drivers in the class last year, is ready for another shot at the division title with MSM as Kuchelbacher makes a return to the series after taking a hiatus in 2020.
“The goal is to win,” said Barnes to euronascar.com. “We gained experience last year of what is needed in the Club Challenge. It Isn’t similar to anything I’ve done before so there was a learning curve to face. However, at the end of last year, we were very close to the others. If we continue to build on our experience then I feel we have a realistic chance of success this year.”
“My goal for this season with Marko Stipp Motorsport is to bring my know-how from three seasons of NASCAR into the team and of course to fight for the championship,” said Kuchelbacher to euronascar.com. “To win a second title and to be on the podium in every race. After one title and two 3rd place finishes overall, the title can only be the goal.”
The announcement of Barnes and Kuchelbacher’s signing by MSM also reveals that the Club Challenge division will be hosting events at 5 of the 7 rounds scheduled for this year – Valencia, Most, Hockenheim, Rijeka, and Zolder.
DF1 Moves Justin Kunz to EuroNASCAR 2 as New EN2 Driver of the #22 Team
In a recent press release, DF1 Racing has revealed that they would be making a late change to the driver roster as Justin Kunz is now scheduled to be racing in the EuroNASCAR 2 class as the new EN2 driver for DF1’s No. 22 Grapos Camaro.
Kunz’s switch to EN2 was done after it became clear to the team that Andre Castro wouldn’t be able to compete in the series due to the restrictions and quarantine measures that was currently in place in United States. Kenko Miura, who was scheduled to race the No. 99 car in EN2 initially, would also be unable to compete in the series full-time due to the COVID restrictions in Japan.
“Kenko Miura and André Castro both were eager to race for the Austrian team DF1 Racing in 2021,” said the team in their press release. “As the situation with COVID-19 in Japan and the United States has not really changed and due to the restrictions and quarantine measures, both have to postpone their ambitions until 2022. If the situation has changed by the end of the season, a guest start might be possible.”
“Therefore, the management of the team discussed the new situation with Justin Kunz and Nicolò Rocca. The final decision to move Justin Kunz to the #22, together with Nicolò Rocca, and into the EuroNASCAR 2 will give DF1 Racing the possibility to fight for the team championship with the car #22.”
Despite this unexpected news, Kunz understands that the “demotion” was a move that would give DF1 the best chance of winning both the driver title in both classes and the Teams Championship title.
“It’s the third year in a row that DF1 puts its trust in me. Due to the new situation and after some conversations with the team, I’m happy to return this favour. The opportunity to fight for the title in the team championship with the 22 and at the same time to fight for the title in the EuroNASCAR 2 is a great possibility!”, said Kunz on the change to EuroNASCAR 2 in 2021.
“I’ve learnt a lot in the EuroNASCAR Pro last season and I developed further as a driver. I get along well with Nicolò, concerning our characters, we are quite similar and I’m optimistic, that we will be a good and successful team.”
Norbert Walchhofer, DF1’s Head of Motorsport, expresses his gratitude at Kunz’s willingness to move down to EuroNASCAR 2 to give the team the best possible chance of winning the title in 2021.
“We are grateful that Justin Kunz is taking this step with us in 2021,” said Walchhofer in the press release. “We hope that at the end of the season, our strategy will bring us the success we are hoping for. With this decision, Justin proves that he is a true team-player!”
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard / Bart Dehaese.