Friday’s running of Fracasso NASCAR GP Croatia saw Gordon Barnes claim his third consecutive Club Challenge victory while Gianmarco Ercoli and Tobias Dauenhauer topped the field in a wet opening day at Rijeka.

Rain once again heralded the arrival of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series field at Rijeka as rain affected the entirety of Fracasso NASCAR GP Croatia’s opening day yesterday.

The EuroNASCAR Club Challenge division’s timed sessions starts off the action on Friday, which saw nine drivers once again being officially listed as the classified participants. While Club Challenge is usually held on two sessions, drivers only received one timed session yesterday the torrential rain that hit Rijeka in the morning forced the cancellation of the first session.

With only one timed session to make it count, drivers are faced with a make-it or break-it situation to get the closest time to their benchmark time without accumulating too much penalty time. In the end, it’s Marko Stipp Motorsport’s Gordon Barnes in that once again claimed victory in Club Challenge as he ends his day with a total penalty time of 0.572 seconds, just 0.006 seconds ahead of Academy Motorsport co-owner Federico Monti.

“It was very difficult!” said Barnes to euronascar.com. “We’ve been dodging rain storms all day and the track conditions were changing all the time. Finding a consistent pace was really tough.”

“We kept the focus on our plan and came out the winners. Marko Stipp Motorsport did a fantastic job and we didn’t have any problems. We sure want to continue this way in the next two events!”

Paul Jouffreau once again ends in the podium with a total penalty time of 0.708 seconds as Nicolo Gabossi, who would make his debut in the two main divisions later that day, ends up fourth – his first finish outside of the Club Challenge podium – with a total penalty of 1.058 seconds.

Andreas Kuchelbacher completes the Top 5 ahead of Jerome Mure and debutant Mitch Maguerez as fellow debutants Aliyyah and Yasmeen Koloc – the first UAE drivers to test a NASCAR car – turned their first laps in an EuroNASCAR stock car yesterday.

While regularity-wise it was a disastrous outing for the Koloc twins given that they accumulated 6 minutes of penalty time, it nonetheless was an important day for the twins as father Martin thanks Euro Series for the invitation that he and Buggyra Racing received.

“I’d like to thank Jerome Galpin for the invitation,” said Martin. “Despite our busy schedules, we’ve accepted the offer right away. It’s one of the most prestigious European circuit racing series, with a long-term vision and a direct connection to the USA.”

“I’ve seen a couple of races in the US, and it’s full of action. We’ll go with David [Vršecký, two-time ETRC champion and current chief designer for Buggyra], who is studying the technical aspects of both cars that we’re going to race with. He says that it’s going to be a “massacre”, but also that it will be fine.”

The Koloc twins racked up more than 60 laps in total – 36 laps for Aliyyah, 34 for Yasmeen – and their best lap times of 1:40.765 and 1:41.531 respectively was within 5-6 seconds of the times set by the drivers’ competing in the two main classes, who experienced two wet Practice sessions on Friday.

In the top EuroNASCAR PRO class, CAAL Racing traded the top spots in Practice as Alon Day finished the first Practice session quickest with a time of 1:35.622 before teammate Gianmarco Ercoli did one step better in FP2 with a time of 1:35.301 to put the Italian on the top of the combined timesheets.

Day’s fastest time in FP1 is still enough for second on the combined times as EuroNASCAR PRO’s latest race winner Vittorio Ghirelli finished the day third with a time of 1:35.747. Nicolo Rocca and Giorgio Maggi completes the Top 5 as championship leader Loris Hezemans ends his day in sixth place, having struggled to get to the 1:35 mark.

Lucas Lasserre ends Friday with a strong 7th place finish, ahead of Jacques Villeneuve and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen who took their time to familiarize themselves with the Grobnik circuit. Fabrizio Armetta, who is carrying a new livery thanks to a new primary sponsor in Motorquality’s Red Attack, completes the Top 10 on the combined timesheets.

Henri Tuomaala finished the day 11th as the fastest of the Challenger Trophy drivers, nearly one second ahead of the next-fastest Challenger Trophy driver Dario Caso. Caso’s new teammate and series debutant 16-year old Leonardo Colavita enjoyed a strong debut day as he finished Friday’s Practice sessions in 17th place with a fastest time of 1:38.368.

The same couldn’t be said for fellow top class debutant Nicolo Gabossi, however, as he ends his day as the slowest driver in the field with a time of 1:44.408, more than 9 seconds behind Ercoli’s fastest lap time.

Only 23 out of the 26 entrants in EuroNASCAR PRO class set a lap time on yesterday’s Practice sessions. Vladimiros Tziortzis didn’t set a lap time in the No. 1 Remedica Ford while both Frédéric Gabillon and Ian Eric Wadén weren’t present all-day long. While the reason for their absence is currently unknown, it is likely that they wouldn’t be competing this week, thus leaving DF1 with 4 cars and RDV with just Ulysse Delsaux in the No. 10 GCS Chevrolet.

EuroNASCAR PRO Combined Practice Times

RANK DRIVER FP1 TIME FP2 TIME
1. Gianmarco Ercoli (54) 1:36.785 1:35.301
2. Alon Day (88) 1:35.622 1:35.765
3. Vittorio Ghirelli (50) 1:35.766 1:35.747
4. Nicolò Rocca (22) 1:37.235 1:35.906
5. Giorgio Maggi (18) 1:36.216 1:36.072
6. Loris Hezemans (7) 1:36.483 1:36.222
7. Lucas Lasserre (64) 1:36.447 1:36.303
8. Jacques Villeneuve (5) 1:36.560 1:36.983
9. Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (69) 1:37.218 1:36.872
10. Fabrizio Armetta (55) 1:37.388 1:38.438
11. Henri Tuomaala (23) 1:37.531 1:38.134
12. Francesco Sini (12) 1:38.310 1:37.551
13. Patrick Lemarié (66) 1:39.324 1:37.796
14. Ulysse Delsaux (10) 1:37.834 1:38.172
15. Romain Iannetta (46) 1:39.230 1:37.947
16. Marc Goossens (77) 1:47.613 1:38.186
17. Leonardo Colavita (9) 1:38.368 1:39.532
18. Dario Caso (8) 1:41.636 1:38.644
19. Davide Dallara (89) 1:42.111 1:39.221
20. Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 1:39.846 1:39.269
21. Bernardo Manfrè (17) 1:41.445 1:39.781
22. Federico Monti (2) 1:43.246 No Time
23. Nicolò Gabossi (90) 1:45.146 1:44.408
24. Frédéric Gabillon (3) No Time No Time
25. Ian Eric Wadén (44) No Time No Time
26. Vladimiros Tziortzis (1) No Time No Time

While ENPRO’s championship leader Loris Hezemans struggled on the opening day, EN2’s championship Tobias Dauenhauer didn’t have one such struggle as he finished the day as the fastest driver in EuroNASCAR 2’s Practice sessions with a best lap time of 1:36.100.

Vladimiros Tziortzis and Martin Doubek is expected to give Dauenhauer the closest challenge once more as both the Cypriot and the Czech driver finished inside the Top 3 with a best lap time of 1:36.516 and 1:36.869 respectively.

Simon Pilate finished as the “best of the rest” in fourth place with a time of 1:37.214 while Euro Series debutant – and Michael Bleekemolen’s replacement driver – Melvin de Groot scored an impressive Top 5 finish in the opening day.

Max Lanza, who was the fastest in the wet Practice day at Most a few weeks back, finished sixth in the combined timesheets ahead of Pierluigi Veronesi and fellow debutant Colavita, who once again showcased his capabilities inside an EuroNASCAR stock car by putting a lap time that would match the veterans of the sport.

Justin Kunz and Advait Deodhar completes the Top 10 in the combined timesheets, narrowly finishing ahead of Naveh Talor who finished the day as the fastest of the Not Only Motorsport drivers in a tough day for the Not Only drivers.

Francesco Garisto also had a tough day in the office on Friday as he experienced a spin during Practice. He thankfully escaped without any damage to his Shadow, but ultimately he ends the day 13th in the combined timesheet with a time of 1:38.607.

In EuroNASCAR 2 only 21 of the 24 entered drivers set a lap time on Friday’s Practice sessions. Neither Arianna Casoli and Fabrizio Armetta set a lap time while Ian Eric Wadén’s suspected absence meant that it’s likely that he won’t be participating further in the Fracasso NASCAR GP Croatia.

EuroNASCAR 2 Combined Practice Times

RANK DRIVER FP1 TIME FP2 TIME
1. Tobias Dauenhauer (50) 1:36.443 1:36.100
2. Vladimiros Tziortzis (1) 1:36.516 1:36.743
3. Martin Doubek (7) 1:37.717 1:36.869
4. Simon Pilate (66) 1:38.720 1:37.214
5. Melvin de Groot (69) 1:37.406 1:37.599
6. Max Lanza (88) 1:38.356 1:37.455
7. Pierluigi Veronesi (27) 1:38.217 1:37.570
8. Leonardo Colavita (9) 1:38.423 1:37.599
9. Justin Kunz (22) 1:37.954 1:37.630
10. Advait Deodhar (56) 1:39.793 1:37.882
11. Naveh Talor (90) 1:39.089 1:38.456
12. Thomas Krasonis (2) 1:40.247 1:38.566
13. Francesco Garisto (42) 1:38.708 1:38.607
14. Leevi Lintukanto (23) 1:38.753 No Time
15. Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 1:38.853 1:38.829
16. Paolo Valeri (8) 1:40.416 1:39.258
17. Gil Linster (77) 1:42.516 1:39.470
18. Alberto Panebianco (89) 1:40.371 1:39.712
19. Miguel Gomes (46) 1:41.422 1:40.964
20. Alina Loibnegger (12) 1:43.902 1:42.739
21. Eric Quintal (64) 1:58.009 1:48.236
22. Ian Eric Wadén (44) No Time No Time
23. Arianna Casoli (54) No Time No Time
24. Fabrizio Armetta (55) No Time No Time

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

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