Hendriks Motorsport teammates Loris Hezemans and Martin Doubek wins the Saturday races of Fracasso NASCAR GP Croatia in a dramatic, yet controversial fashion after long-time race leaders Gianmarco Ercoli and Tobias Dauenhauer received penalties that ultimately ended their chances of winning.

Saturday proved to be a dramatic, yet controversial day at Fracasso NASCAR GP Croatia as penalties for long-time race leaders ultimately handed Loris Hezemans and Martin Doubek the win in the first race of the weekend in EuroNASCAR PRO and EuroNASCAR 2 respectively.

As usual, Saturday’s activities began with the EuroNASCAR PRO Qualifying session as 23 drivers took part in the 30-minute session to determine the starting grid for the first race. Qualifying proved to be a dramatic one as multiple drivers explored the track limits in search for the fastest lap possible, although none of them would cause a stoppage during the session.

In the end it was championship leader Hezemans that claimed pole position for the first race set a lap time of 1:28.651 to give him his fifth pole position of the year. Championship rival Gianmarco Ercoli would claim second with a time of 1:28.947 to give him his first front-row start of the year.

Hendriks teammates Vittorio Ghirelli and Giorgio Maggi placed themselves on the second row of the grid while Alon Day completes the Top 5, edging out Villeneuve who ran wide at Turn 2 after he locked up his brakes on the braking zone just after scoring his fastest lap of the session that was still 0.681 seconds slower than Hezemans’ pole lap time.

Lucas Lasserre and Nicolo Rocca fills the fourth row of the grid ahead of Marc Goossens, who sat on the provisional pole in the early stages of Qualifying before he had an off-track excursion with a spin. Romain Iannetta completes the Top 10 ahead of fellow Frenchman Patrick Lemarie while Sebastian Bleekemolen qualifies in a disappointingly low 12th place.

Davide Dallara, who qualified 15th with a time of 1:31.054, was the fastest of the Challenger Trophy drivers as another Challenger Trophy driver Bernardo Manfre also explored the grassy track limits at Rijeka after he spun his Shadow DNM8 at Turn 16. Debutants Leonardo Colavita and Nicolò Gabossi would slot themselves in 17th and 21st place respectively.

Full EuroNASCAR PRO Qualifying Result

RANK DRIVER QUALIFYING
1. Loris Hezemans (7) 1:28.651
2. Gianmarco Ercoli (54) 1:28.947
3. Vittorio Ghirelli (50) 1:29.015
4. Giorgio Maggi (18) 1:29.240
5. Alon Day (88) 1:29.281
6. Jacques Villeneuve (5) 1:29.332
7. Lucas Lasserre (64) 1:29.366
8. Nicolò Rocca (22) 1:29.526
9. Marc Goossens (77) 1:29.933
10. Romain Iannetta (46) 1:30.370
11. Patrick Lemarié (66) 1:30.462
12. Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (69) 1:30.742
13. Francesco Sini (12) 1:30.776
14. Ulysse Delsaux (10) 1:30.800
15. Davide Dallara (89) 1:31.054
16. Fabrizio Armetta (55) 1:31.177
17. Leonardo Colavita (9) 1:31.313
18. Dario Caso (8) 1:31.421
19. Henri Tuomaala (23) 1:31.496
20. Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 1:31.884
21. Nicolò Gabossi (90) 1:32.917
22. Bernardo Manfré (17) 1:33.363
23. Federico Monti (2) 1:34.850

A total of 21 drivers ultimately took part in the EuroNASCAR 2 Qualifying session as Arianna Casoli – who was not present at Rijeka, just as the initial Entry List for NASCAR GP Croatia suggests – and Fabrizio Armetta did not take any further part in the EN2 division activities for this weekend.

The session was briefly halted after 10 minutes when the front-left wheel of Leonardo Colavita’s Camaro said their goodbyes. The detached wheel thankfully didn’t cause any injuries to the on-track marshalls, but the session was Red Flagged to recover both the front-left tire and the No. 9 Vict Camaro back to the pits.

Qualifying was ultimately dominated by Tobias Dauenhauer as his fastest lap time of 1:29.830 was enough to secure his third consecutive pole position of the year despite he only came out late in the session due to brake line issues on his No. 50 Hendriks Ford.

Vladimiros Tziortzis and Martin Doubek once again completes the Top 3 as the trio of drivers finished the session with a significant gap to Simon Pilate in fourth place. Pilate’s best lap time of 1:30.584 placed him as the “best of the rest” once again ahead of teammate Justin Kunz, who completes the Top-5 despite being more than one second slower than Dauenhauer.

Alberto Panebianco, who qualified in 7th place, was the fastest of the Rookie Trophy drivers while Evgeny Sokolovsky qualified 9th as the fastest Legend Trophy driver ahead of series debutant and replacement driver Melvin de Groot.

With Casoli not present, Alina Loibnegger became the fastest Lady Trophy driver by default as she qualifies herself in 20th position, nearly 5 seconds slower than Dauenhauer but also nearly 5 seconds faster than last-place qualifier Eric Quintal.

Full EuroNASCAR 2 Qualifying Result

RANK DRIVER QUALIFYING
1. Tobias Dauenhauer (50) 1:29.830
2. Vladimiros Tziortzis (1) 1:29.997
3. Martin Doubek (7) 1:30.060
4. Simon Pilate (66) 1:30.584
5. Justin Kunz (22) 1:30.906
6. Advait Deodhar (56) 1:31.047
7. Alberto Panebianco (89) 1:31.186
8. Max Lanza (88) 1:31.198
9. Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 1:31.276
10. Melvin de Groot (69) 1:31.323
11. Naveh Talor (90) 1:31.413
12. Francesco Garisto (42) 1:31.520
13. Pierluigi Veronesi (27) 1:31.545
14. Leevi Lintukanto (23) 1:31.616
15. Leonardo Colavita (9) 1:31.759
16. Gil Linster (77) 1:31.819
17. Paolo Valeri (8) 1:32.463
18. Thomas Krasonis (2) 1:32.471
19. Miguel Gomes (46) 1:33.377
20. Alina Loibnegger (12) 1:34.349
21. Eric Quintal (64) 1:39.054

Race 1 for the EuroNASCAR PRO class began at 14:00 local time as 23 drivers took the green flag for the first scheduled race of Fracasso NASCAR GP Croatia. Gianmarco Ercoli was the one to get the better launch at the start and managed to get the holeshot in the run to Turn 1, although the start would come under scrunity as the officials suspected Ercoli of doing a jump start.

Behind them, Ghirelli and Maggi managed to retain their positions at the end of the first lap while a poor start by Alon Day saw him slip back down to 7th position. Day quickly recovered back up to 6th on the following lap while Bernardo Manfre’s bad day continues as a spin into the barriers at Turn 15 forced the sole Shadow driver to retire from the race.

On the next few laps the leading pack of Ercoli and Hezemans engaged in a battle for the lead as Hezemans tries to find a way past the Italian on the twisty Rijeka circuit. Both drivers came close to contact multiple times, but despite the fierce “rubbing is racing” action the pair was able to open up a 3.6 seconds gap to Ghirelli, who struggled to keep up with the pace of the leaders.

Right as Davide Dallara crashed out of the race and Dario Caso retired with mechanical issues on lap 9, the race turned over on its head as Race Control announced that Ercoli will be handed a 10-second time penalty post-race after he was deemed to have broken the start procedure at the start by staying side-by-side to Hezemans on the start when the rules – newly changed for this year – dictate the two rows to be separated based on the grid lines present in the track.

The penalty effectively meant that Hezemans is now the acting as the net race leader with Ghirelli and Maggi filling the podium spots, although Villeneuve and Day soon joined the fight for the podium after several strong laps from both the Canadian and the Israeli.

Further drama happened just a lap later as debutant Gabossi spun himself out of the race in the middle of Turn 5. The Safety Car was brought out soon after to recover Gabossi’s Not Only Motorsport Camaro, who stranded on the edge of the track with fire briefly appearing on the engine compartment.

The Safety Car is certainly not what Ercoli had hoped as the field is now all bunched up, meaning that he would lose more positions on countback after the penalty was applied. The race was restarted on lap 14 with Ercoli maintaining the lead and Hezemans staying in second while Maggi slips down the order due to an apparent mechanical problem, running off the track in the process.

The race eventually ends with Ercoli crossing the line first on the road, but his penalty meant that Hezemans – who never actually led a lap – took his fourth victory of the year with Ghirelli in second and Villeneuve in third, the ex-Formula One champion scoring his first podium finish of the year.

“I still want to pass him fair and clean but if you were beside somebody and everytime it pushed somebody into the grass, I guess there’s not much of an option you can do but it’s also one of the reasons he probably got the penalty for failing to follow the instructions,” said Hezemans in the Victory Lane.

Lucas Lasserre just misses out on the podium in 4th place ahead of Day, who once again made a bad start and was overtaken by Lasserre during the restart. Romain Iannetta came home 6th to score Marko Stipp Motorsport’s best finish in the top class ahead of the DF1 duo of Rocca and Goossens while Ulysse Delsaux, who was classified in 9th ahead of the penalized Ercoli, would claim the top honors in Junior Trophy.

Patrick Lemarié just missed out on his first Top 10 finish of the year in 11th ahead of Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, who continued to struggle to find pace in his Team Bleekemolen Ford.

Fabrizio Armetta, who finished 13th in the newly-liveried Red Attack Camaro, would claim the win in Challenger Trophy while Leonardo Colavita brought home a respectable 14th place finish in his debut EuroNASCAR race.

Francesco Sini’s bad season continued as he received a 10-second time penalty for pushing Romain Iannetta’s car during the restart, dropping him down to 17th place in the final results while Federico Monti, who finished a lap down in 19th place, experienced an unusual moment during the Safety Car period.

The driver of the Safety Car accidentally picked up Monti’s car instead of the race-leading Ercoli, who was about to lap the Academy Motorsport co-ownerlo when the Safety Car was called. Monti, knowing that he’s not in the lead, was later seen waving his hands frantically in order to tell the leaders to overtake and lap him on the lap of the restart.

It took Ercoli a while to understand his frantic waving, but eventually he and the rest of the field was able to understand the message and the field was able to get by Monti and take the restart with little issues.

Full EuroNASCAR PRO Race 1 Result

POS GRID DRIVER LAPS TIME / GAP
1. 1 Loris Hezemans (7) 17 28:56.910
2. 3 Vittorio Ghirelli (50) 17 + 0.495
3. 6 Jacques Villeneuve (5) 17 + 0.956
4. 7 Lucas Lasserre (64) 17 + 1.532
5. 5 Alon Day (88) 17 + 2.027
6. 10 Romain Iannetta (46) 17 + 5.885
7. 8 Nicolò Rocca (22) 17 + 6.223
8. 9 Marc Goossens (77) 17 + 6.303
9. 14 Ulysse Delsaux (10) 17 + 8.565
10. 2 Gianmarco Ercoli (54) 17 + 9.8241
11. 11 Patrick Lemarié (66) 17 + 11.330
12. 12 Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (69) 17 + 11.876
13. 16 Fabrizio Armetta (55) 17 + 13.363
14. 17 Leonardo Colavita (9) 17 + 14.677
15. 20 Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 17 + 15.952
16. 19 Henri Tuomaala (23) 17 + 16.396
17. 13 Francesco Sini (12) 17 + 19.2902
18. 4 Giorgio Maggi (18) 17 + 33.877
19. 23 Federico Monti (2) 16 + 1 Lap
20. 21 Nicolò Gabossi (90) 9 DNF (Spun Off)
21. 18 Dario Caso (8) 8 DNF (Mechanical)
22. 15 Davide Dallara (89) 7 DNF (Accident)
23. 22 Bernardo Manfré (17) 1 DNF (Spun Off)

Gianmarco Ercoli received a 10-second time penalty for start procedure infringements.
Francesco Sini received a 10-second time penalty for pushing Romain Iannetta’s car during the restart.

All 21 drivers would start the first EuroNASCAR 2 race of the weekend that was held in the evening and right from the start the two Hendriks cars of Dauenhauer and Doubek took the charge after the Czech driver managed to past Vladimiros Tziortzis to claim second in the opening lap.

A poor start for title contender Advait Deodhar drops him down to 9th by the fourth lap while Pierluigi Veronesi experienced early-race issues after his No. 27 Double V Ford was seen stopped on the side of the track in the same lap.

In the opening first few laps Dauenhauer was able to open up and maintain a gap of around 2 seconds towards Doubek and Tziortzis, but disaster would struck the German on lap 7 when the Race Control announced that he has to serve a drive-through penalty for unapproved work that was being done to his car on the grid, making it two in two for races where the long-time race leader’ efforts were made undone by a penalty.

Dauenhauer duly took his penalty on lap 10, dropping him down to 8th as the penalty would hand over the lead to teammate Doubek. For the next four laps Doubek had to work hard to try fend off the pressure from Tziortzis, who is eager to score his first career victory in EuroNASCAR.

Despite the constant challenge made by Tziortzis, the race was decided in Doubek’s favor as the Czech driver crosses the line just 0.465 seconds ahead of Tziortzis to claim his third victory of the season, his first since the season-opening round at Valencia.

“I don’t know why he [Dauenhauer] had the penalty but I think I should be able to overtake him in two laps so when I saw he’s going in, I think “Okay, let’s go straight” but the car behind me was following and it’s a stressful race,” spoken Doubek in the Victory Lane.

Behind the leading trio, DF1 teammates Simon Pilate and Justin Kunz were running comfortably as the “best of the rest” and was embroiled in a battle for fourth that would later become a podium for the final podium position when Dauenhauer took his drive-through penalty.

Pilate looks set to claim the final podium position only for him to collide with the lapped down car of Alina Loibnegger right on the final lap, gifting Kunz his first podium finish of the year even though he was hit with a post-race time penalty for leaving the start formation line early at the start.

Alberto Panebianco came home in an impressive 4th place finish as the best Rookie Trophy driver and give Not Only Motorsport a happy end of the day even with Naveh Talor’s untimely retirement due to mechanical issues late in the race.

Deodhar recovered from his poor first few laps to claim 5th place ahead of the charging Dauenhauer, while debutant Melvin de Groot finished 7th to claim the top honors in Legend Trophy on his debut race, finishing well ahead of regular Legend Trophy competitors Max Lanza and Evgeny Sokolovsky in the process.

Leonardo Colavita just misses out on a Top-10 finish in his debut EuroNASCAR 2 race, although he was the sole finisher for Vict Motorsport as Paolo Valeri retired early on due to mechanical issues. Elsewhere, despite the collision with Pilate, Loibnegger would still claim the Lady Trophy win by default given that Casoli didn’t take part this weekend.

Full EuroNASCAR 2 Race 1 Result

POS GRID DRIVER LAPS TIME / GAP
1. 3 Martin Doubek (7) 14 21:07.672
2. 2 Vladimiros Tziortzis (1) 14 + 0.465
3. 5 Justin Kunz (22) 14 + 14.3941
4. 7 Alberto Panebianco (89) 14 + 21.810
5. 6 Advait Deodhar (56) 14 + 25.201
6. 1 Tobias Dauenhauer (50) 14 + 25.378
7. 10 Melvin de Groot (69) 14 + 29.207
8. 12 Francesco Garisto (42) 14 + 35.166
9. 16 Gil Linster (77) 14 + 35.342
10. 8 Max Lanza (88) 14 + 36.843
11. 15 Leonardo Colavita (9) 14 + 37.427
12. 9 Evgeny Sokolovsky (48) 14 + 38.257
13. 14 Leevi Lintukanto (23) 14 + 38.789
14. 18 Thomas Krasonis (2) 14 + 47.384
15. 19 Miguel Gomes (46) 14 + 1:04.291
16. 4 Simon Pilate (66) 13 DNF (Collision)
17. 20 Alina Loibnegger (12) 13 + 1 Lap
18. 21 Eric Quintal (64) 13 + 1 Lap
19. 13 Pierluigi Veronesi (27) 11 DNF (Mechanical)
20. 11 Naveh Talor (90) 10 DNF (Mechanical)
21. 17 Paolo Valeri (8) 4 DNF (Mechanical)

Justin Kunz received a 5-second time penalty for leaving the start formation row before the start/finish line.

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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