NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will start off their 2021 season with the season-opening NASCAR GP Spain at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, featuring a field of 30 cars and 53 drivers across all classes that are ready to participate in the series’ tenth season under official NASCAR sanctioning.
After a lengthy off-season period that saw the season being postponed to May due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions at the time, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will start off the 2021 season with this week’s season-opening NASCAR GP Spain at Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
After NASCAR GP Spain was placed as the season ending doubleheader in 2020, the round returns to its traditional season opening date once more as Valencia would welcome 30 cars and 53 drivers from all three classes to take part in the series’ tenth season under official NASCAR sanctioning.
With 30 cars due to take part in this year’s running of NASCAR GP Spain, this would mean that the series would have the biggest Entry List size since the 2019 season finale at Zolder. It shouldn’t be surprising that the field size is growing bigger in 2021 however, as the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 meant that some of the major teams had to made the tough decision to withdraw their planned entries last year.
RDV Competition and Team Bleekemolen were among the major teams that had to withdraw from 2020 due to the effects of the pandemic, but they will be ready to compete with the same amount of cars that they have in 2019.
In the meantime, Double V Racing would make their series debut in 2021 as Speedhouse is prepared to make their first full season campaign in the series after competing as a part-time team in the last two years. The Club Motorsport, a late entry to the list, is also ready to expand their racing program in 2021 with their newly-renumbered No. 55 Dinoil Camaro.
The Entry List for NASCAR GP Spain also reveals that DF1 Racing is going to renumber the No. 99 car into the No. 77 car after the team made a late decision to move Justin Kunz down to EuroNASCAR 2.
Unfortunately, the Entry List for Valencia also further confirms that PK Carsport will exit the series in 2021 as the team focuses their efforts in the newly-established BMW M2 CS Racing Cup Benelux and GT Rebellion Series, thus ending the participation for the two-time Teams Champion in the series for the time being.
For EuroNASCAR PRO, a total of 24 drivers would take part in Valencia and once again it would feature an all-star cast of some of the best in Europe’s stock car racing.
Defending champion Alon Day, who returns to CAAL Racing to race the No. 88 Monster Energy Chevrolet, is certainly the top favorite coming to Valencia and with a record of 5 wins on the track including two wins in the doubleheader last year, it’s easy to see why.
Things wouldn’t be easy for Day however, as many solid championship-contending drivers would be ready to challenge the Israeli’s crown in 2021. Chief among which is 2019 champion Loris Hezemans, who will be carrying some experience from his debut Xfinity oval outing at Phoenix two months ago on his first race with Hendriks’ No. 7 Mustang.
Day’s teammate Gianmarco Ercoli is also ready to give the Israeli a stronger challenge after a successful first year in Day’s former No. 54 machine. Long-time rival Nicolò Rocca is also ready for a stronger title fight this year as Lasse Sørensen’s departure meant that Rocca would become DF1’s team leader in the team’s pursuit for their first top class title.
Joining Rocca in the DF1 stable is Marc Goossens, who will made his debut with the team as a late replacement driver for Kunz in what is now the No. 77 team. After finally making his first full-season debut in 2020 after four years of part-time competition, the highly experienced Belgian driver hopes that he can use his experience to a good use on his debut with year with DF1.
Jacques Villeneuve and the RDV duo of Frédéric Gabillon and Ulysse Delsaux returns to the fray after they missed out on plenty of on-track action in 2020. JV will now race for the newly-rebranded Academy Motorsport, while Gabillon and Delsaux are staying loyal to RDV Competition on their return to the series.
Defending EuroNASCAR 2 champion Vittorio Ghirelli makes the step up to the top class in the No. 50 Ford of Hendriks as former EN2 vice-champion Giorgio Maggi hopes to make a better impression following a tough debut season in ENPRO for the Swiss driver. Another driver to look out for is veteran Lucas Lasserre, who would be making his first start as an owner-driver with the Speedhouse team in 2021.
Davide Dallara aims to defend the Challenger Trophy honors as former Challenger Trophy winner Henri Tuomaala makes his return after the pandemic postponed his scheduled debut with DF1 Racing. Dario Caso, Evgeny Sokolovsky, Bernardo Manfré, Mirco Schultis, and debutants Ian Eric Wadén and Andrea Nori are all going to attempt to dethrone Dallara from the top of the Challenger Trophy sub-classification.
In the Junior Trophy, the exit of the trophy’s defending winner Lasse Sørensen meant that there will be a vacuum to be filled with. Ercoli, Delsaux, Maggi, and Thomas Ferrando – now racing for Academy Motorsport – will all contest for the honors of winning the sub-classification for top class drivers aged 25 and under.
For EuroNASCAR 2, a total of 25 drivers from 14 different countries would be contesting in the ever-competitive junior class of the series. The pressure in EuroNASCAR 2 would lie on the Hendriks duo of Tobias Dauenhauer and Martin Doubek, as they would be having a tough task of matching up with the all-conquering Hendriks team of 2020 that swept practically everything in the junior class last year.
Their task wouldn’t be made easy however as Vladimiros Tziortzis, Simon Pilate, Justin Kunz, and Advait Deodhar would be ready to challenge the Hendriks domination in 2021. For Tziortzis and Deodhar, they have proved themselves as an unlikely challenger for the EuroNASCAR 2 title and they would stand a real chance of becoming Cyprus and India’s first NASCAR winner in this year’s EuroNASCAR 2 season.
For Kunz and Pilate, they would be spearheading DF1’s latest challengers for the EN2 title after their title aspirations last year was hampered by travel restrictions that prevented the duo of Andreas Jochimsen and Andre Castro to saw the 2020 season to its end.
Another driver to watch for in 2021 is Pierluigi Veronesi, now competing as an owner-driver of the newly-established Double V Racing. Veronesi, whose consistency saw him place as high as 3rd in the 2019 championship, could potentially surprise people on his return to Euro Series competition.
The ever popular Arianna Casoli, now the record holder for the driver with the most starts in EN2 with 56 starts, will face a new challenge in the Lady Trophy as Alina Loibnegger makes her junior class debut to contest the full-season with Solaris Motorsport. Both drivers will lay the gauntlet to claim the classification honor that Julia Landauer won in a spectacular fashion after she became the first female driver to score a Top 5 finish in the overall standings last year.
Legend Trophy would be a hotly contested sub-classification trophy in 2021 as 12 drivers would contest for the Legend Trophy honors this year. Casoli, who won the Legend Trophy in 2020, will face a strong challenge as Ian Eric Wadén and Michael Bleekemolen – the oldest driver in the grid at 71 years old – is ready to continue their 2019 battle for the Legend Trophy honors that had to be decided with a tiebreaker.
Among the 12 drivers due to contest the Legend Trophy this year, Wadén, Sokolovsky, and owner-drivers Fabrizio Armetta [The Club] and Mirco Schultis [Mishumotors] will be participating in a double duty basis in 2021. Sokolovsky in particular would made history as his No. 48 Gulf Camaro marked the first occasion of a Gulf-sponsored car in NASCAR’s long history.
Manfré, Eric Quintal, Max Lanza, Didier Bec, Paolo Valeri, and Miguel Gomes would also contest the Legend Trophy in 2021 as Valeri and Gomes would also compete for the Rookie Trophy honors given that both drivers would make their series debuts this year. Loibnegger, Leevi Lintukanto, and Alberto Panebianco would also challenge for the Rookie Trophy honors in 2021.
The EuroNASCAR 2 field at Valencia was due to feature 26 drivers, but unfortunately Igor Romanov would have to miss the season opening round after he revealed that he was tested positive for COVID-19.
Another driver that had to miss this weekend’s action is Andreas Kuchelbacher, as a rib injury prevented the Austrian from making his return to Club Challenge at Valencia. Gomes would temporarily took the driving duties for the No. 46 MSM Chevrolet in Club Challenge this weekend.
Despite Kuchelbacher’s absence, a total of 8 drivers – plus Tziortzis, due to compete for gaining extra practice time only – were to contest the season opening round for Euro Series’ regularity based class.
The 8 entrants marked a sharp increase of the amount of drivers participating in Club Challenge as only 3 drivers made a full attempt in the pandemic-affected 2020 season. Two of them – Academy’s Federico Monti and MSM’s Gordon Barnes – would make their return to the Club Challenge grid as Jerome Mure [RDV], Marcel Berndt, Paul Jouffreau [both at Speedhouse], Nicolò Gabossi, and Simona Lenci [both at Not Only] are scheduled to contest the season opening Club Challenge round.
As usual, the season opening NASCAR GP Spain will be streamed live on Motorsport.tv and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ official Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch page. For fans wishing to watch the race live on-track, Circuit Ricardo Tormo has received the permit to allow 2,000 fans to spectate the race live on the circuit’s pit box grandstand.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard / Bart Dehaese.