The first day of running of the season opening NASCAR GP Spain saw Loris Hezemans and Vladimiros Tziortzis set the fastest times during Free Practice for EuroNASCAR PRO and EuroNASCAR 2 respectively as Gordon Barnes scores his first win in the Club Challenge division with MSM’s Gulf Chevrolet.

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series officially kickstarts their 2021 season yesterday with the first day of running for the season opening NASCAR GP Spain. The sunny weather at Circuit Ricardo Tormo on Friday was the perfect weather for drivers and teams to lay down their first laps for both Free Practice and the first round of the regularity-based Club Challenge division.

The day started off with three sessions for the Club Challenge divisions, which saw seven of the scheduled entrants took part to set the closest lap time to the benchmark lap time that was chosen by the driver themselves. It was a particularly busy day for three Club Challenge sessions as the session saw drivers from both ENPRO and EN2 taking part to gain extra practice time with their respective EuroNASCAR machines.

In the end, it was MSM’s Gordon Barnes that went on to score the win as the driver of the No. 48 Gulf Chevrolet received the lowest penalty time out of all drivers that took part in the session. Barnes, who chose 1:56.000 as his benchmark lap time, received a cumulative penalty time of just 0.830 seconds.

“It’s a fantastic way to start the season,” said Barnes in the Victory Lane. “We’ve learnt a lot last year in the Club Challenge and we were able to build on that coming into the season. The team had a difficult time in Spain last year so to kick the season off at the top step of the podium with Marko Stipp is a fantastic way to start the weekend.”

Speedhouse protege driver Paul Jouffreau scored an impressive podium finish as the 17-year old Frenchman received a cumulative penalty time of 1.152 seconds. Nicolo Gabossi, winner of Not Only Motorsport’s “Be A NASCAR Driver” challenge, completed the final step of the podium with a penalty time of 1.898 seconds.

Academy Motorsport co-owner Federico Monti was fourth ahead of Jerome Mure, who took part in RDV’s No. 10 GCS Camaro after he was listed to drive the No. 3 TEPAC FJ in the initial Entry List. Marcel Berndt is sixth in the Shadow while Not Only’s second driver Simona Lenci completes the field for Club Challenge.

The Free Practice sessions for the two main divisions began after a lunch break and in the top class it was Loris Hezemans that took the honor of being the fastest driver in the two Practice sessions. In his first official laps with the No. 7 Orion Ford, Hezemans was the only driver to set a sub 1:42 lap time as he tops the day with a lap time of 1:41.640.

Defending EN2 champion Vittorio Ghirelli made a huge impression on his debut in the top class as he ended up second overall with a time of 1:42.163. Gianmarco Ercoli was third with a time of 1:42.379 ahead of the returning Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, who scored an impressive fourth place finish on the No. 69 Race Planet Ford.

Nicolo Rocca was fifth ahead of the returning Frédéric Gabillon, who set his fastest Practice time in FP1. Villeneuve is seventh ahead of Giorgio Maggi, who managed to set the eighth best time of the day despite not taking part in FP2. Thomas Ferrando and Francesco Sini completes the Top 10 in the overall time charts.

The Club owner-driver Fabrizio Armetta had an impressive day as he barely misses out on a Top 10 finish on his first official laps in an EuroNASCAR car since 2018. Ulysse Delsaux was 12th ahead of Luigi Ferrara, the fastest of the two Shadow’s.

Ferrara, along with Bernardo Manfré and EN2 teammate Francesco Garisto, are making history this weekend as they will be running the unique Shadow DNM8 chassis for 2021, the first full-fledged factory effort in Euro Series. Shadow DNM8 itself was part of Shadow owner Bernardo Manfré’s plan to introduce a souped-up variant of the Dodge Challenger – a project initially named as the Dodge Challenger DNB8 on its reveal last year – that will be sold under the revived Shadow brand.

Dario Caso and Patrick Lemarié completes the Top 15 as Lucas Lasserre experienced a torrid time on his first laps as an owner-driver. A troublesome FP1 saw Lasserre scored a stunning lap time of 21:56.289 according to the official FP1 results and while he managed to chop off 20 minutes from his time in FP2, his best time of the day only puts him in 19th place.

Ian Eric Wadén also had a troublesome Friday on his top class debut as he only took part in FP1, while Alon Day didn’t take part in any of the Practice sessions as the rising tensions between Israel and Palestine meant that Day only arrived at Valencia on Friday afternoon after his initial flight on Thursday was cancelled. To compensate on his absence, Day will be given a special dispensation to run a 15-minute Practice today to familiarize himself with the No. 88 Monster Energy Camaro.

EuroNASCAR PRO Combined Practice Times

1. Loris Hezemans (7) 1:42.625 1:41.640
2. Vittorio Ghirelli (50) 1:42.775 1:42.163
3. Gianmarco Ercoli (54) 1:42.659 1:42.379
4. Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (69) 1:43.311 1:42.482
5. Nicolò Rocca (22) 1:45.247 1:42.571
6. Frédéric Gabillon (3) 1:42.643 1:42.870
7. Jacques Villeneuve (5) 1:43.563 1:43.055
8. Giorgio Maggi (18) 1:43.187 No Time
9. Thomas Ferrando (1) 1:43.888 1:43.270
10. Francesco Sini (12) 1:43.973 1:43.270
11. Fabrizio Armetta (55) 1:45.003 1:43.370
12. Ulysse Delsaux (10) 1:43.548 1:44.587
13. Luigi Ferrara (42) 1:44.309 1:43.646
14. Dario Caso (8) 1:47.399 1:43.746
15. Patrick Lemarié (66) 1:45.214 1:43.845
16. Marc Goossens (77) 2:00.875 1:44.073
17. Andrea Nori (90) 1:45.635 1:44.910
18. Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 1:47.553 1:44.911
19. Lucas Lasserre (64) 21:56.289 1:44.953
20. Davide Dallara (89) 1:45.454 1:45.212
21. Henri Tuomaala (23) 1:50.863 1:45.438
22. Bernardo Manfré (17) 1:49.342 1:46.456
23. Ian Eric Wadén (44) 1:46.832 No Time
24. Alon Day (88) No Time No Time

In EN2, Academy Motorsport’s Vladimiros Tziortzis makes it clear that he’s ready to challenge the all-conquering Hendriks team after the Cypriot topped the timesheets with a time of 1:42.372 in FP1. Tziortzis’ FP1 lap time was almost a full-second quicker than the Hendriks Ford of Tobias Dauenhauer and while Dauenhauer managed to close the gap to 0.222 second at the end of FP2, it wasn’t enough to topple Tziortzis from the top of the leaderboard.

Martin Doubek claimed third with a time of 1:42.916 as Armetta claimed a surprise fourth place finish in the Dinoil Camaro. Pierluigi Veronesi was fifth on his first outing as an owner-driver with Simon Pilate claiming sixth ahead of Max Lanza, the sole runner of the No. 88 Monster Energy Camaro on Friday.

Advait Deodhar claimed eighth in the TJB Super Yachts Ford with the Shadow of Francesco Garisto and the DF1 Camaro of Justin Kunz finishing ninth and tenth respectively. Evgeny Sokolovsky’s double duty outing proved to be fruitful as he finished the day in 11th, just 0.286 seconds off from the pace of the Top 10 runners of the day.

Photo courtesy of Bleekemolen’s Race Planet

Michael Bleekemolen once again showed no signs of slowing down as the 71-year old Dutchman finished the day in 12th with a time of 1:44.814. Thomas Krasonis, Eric Quintal, and rookie Alberto Panebianco completes the Top 15 drivers in EN2.

It was a tough day for the rookies in EN2 as four of the rookies – Paolo Valeri, Miguel Gomes, Leevi Lintukanto, and Alina Loibnegger – all finished the day outside of the Top 15. Arianna Casoli was the fastest of the Lady Trophy drivers in 21st, finishing the day 1.093 seconds faster than Loibnegger who was classified 22nd and last in Friday’s timesheets.

Naveh Talor missed both Practice sessions as he too got locked out of Friday’s running after his scheduled flight to Valencia was cancelled due to the rising tensions in Israel. Just like Day, he managed to arrive at Valencia on Friday afternoon and he would receive a special dispensation to run a 15-minute long practice in Saturday morning to familiarize himself with the No. 90 Not Only Chevrolet.

EuroNASCAR 2 Combined Practice Times

1. Vladimiros Tziortzis (1) 1:42.372 1:42.811
2. Tobias Dauenhauer (50) 1:43.296 1:42.594
3. Martin Doubek (7) 1:43.492 1:42.916
4. Fabrizio Armetta (55) 1:45.763 1:43.454
5. Pierluigi Veronesi (27) 1:46.042 1:43.705
6. Simon Pilate (66) 1:45.497 1:44.036
7. Max Lanza (88) 1:44.593 1:44.120
8. Advait Deodhar (56) 1:44.661 1:44.126
9. Francesco Garisto (42) 1:44.218 1:44.374
10. Justin Kunz (22) 1:45.559 1:44.254
11. Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 1:46.436 1:44.538
12. Michael Bleekemolen (69) 1:45.719 1:44.814
13. Thomas Krasonis (2) 1:45.600 1:44.998
14. Eric Quintal (64) 1:52.178 1:45.321
15. Alberto Panebianco (89) 1:45.819 1:46.218
16. Paolo Valeri (8) 1:47.655 1:46.189
17. Ian Eric Wadén (44) 1:46.465 1:48.295
18. Miguel Gomes (46) 1:50.250 1:47.108
19. Didier Bec (10) 1:47.154 1:47.299
20. Leevi Lintukanto (23) 1:47.850 1:47.446
21. Arianna Casoli (54) 1:48.110 1:48.120
22. Alina Loibnegger (12) 1:51.211 1:49.213
23. Naveh Talor (90) No Time No Time
24. Bernardo Manfré (17) No Time No Time

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

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