World of EuroNASCAR’s second Race Preview for NASCAR GP Spain at Circuit Ricardo Tormo previews the upcoming showdown of European stock car racing’s top drivers as a record grid of 35 cars is set to take part in the opening EuroNASCAR PRO round of the 2022 season.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series makes their grand return this week as the 2022 season, the 11th under NASCAR’s sanctioning and an historic 10th with title sponsor Whelen, kicks off this weekend with NASCAR GP Spain at Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
The surge of new drivers and teams entering the series along with the return of some old faces makes for a particularly special visit to Circuit Ricardo Tormo as a total of 37 cars – from 17 teams – and 72 drivers across all three divisions are listed to take part at the Valencia season opener.
The 37 cars and 72 drivers that are due to take part in Valencia this week will set a new series record for the largest Entry List size in series history, beating the previous record set at Franciacorta in 2019 where 33 cars and 69 drivers participated on what would turn out to be the series’ final visit to the Italian circuit.
Given that there’s a lot of changes to recap, World of EuroNASCAR’s Race Preview for the 2022 NASCAR GP Spain will be divided into three parts. Part 1 will be focused on the team changes whilst Part 2 and Part 3 will focus on our preview for EuroNASCAR PRO and EuroNASCAR 2 respectively.
Just like with the team count which saw a new all-time record of 37 cars entered, EuroNASCAR PRO would also see a new record in the largest Entry List size ever recorded in series history as the tentative Entry List showed a total of 35 drivers that are listed to take part in Valencia.
The number will break the previous record of 32 entrants that was set at the same track three years ago and it is also expected that the record for the most ENPRO starters in a single race – 30 at Valencia in 2018 – will be broken this week as well.
Former three-time champion Alon Day will enter the season as one of the favorites for the title. The Israeli, who is the sole PRO class champion to compete in 2022 following Loris Hezemans’ departure to America, will be looking to gain another shot at winning the illustrious fourth title after last year’s challenge was hampered by numerous non-finishes.
Another driver that will claim his stake as a favorite for the title is Gianmarco Ercoli, who will enter 2022 as CAAL Racing’s undisputed lead driver. Ercoli, who narrowly missed the title by 3 points last year, will aim to compete for the win from the get-go on the No. 54 CAAL Chevy.
Fellow Italian Vittorio Ghirelli, now signed full-time with Not Only Motorsport, would also try to claim his stake for the title this year after a heartbreaking crash that dropped him out of the title contention in the double points-paying final race of 2021.
While his sudden move from Hendriks Motorsport to Not Only Motorsport might sound like a major downgrade on paper, the results have showcased that the Vignate-based team is capable of contending for race wins and Ghirelli is hoping that the momentum that he got from his podium finish on his maiden race with Not Only will be carried upon to the new season.
Hezemans’ departure from Hendriks left a void that the Dutch team had to fill, but the three-time defending Teams Champion is ready to enter the 2022 season with a new driver line-up of Martin Doubek and Tobias Dauenhauer.
Doubek and Dauenhauer have showcased their capabilities with their domination in EuroNASCAR 2 for the last two seasons, but Doubek has yet to match up his EN2 feats in EuroNASCAR PRO so far and Dauenhauer is a rookie in the top class. These two factors should lead us to expect a tougher road to the top for the Hendriks team this year.
Series veteran Marc Goossens will start on a new challenge with SpeedHouse as team owner Lucas Lasserre’s last minute departure to focus on team ownership meant that the 52-year old will lead the French team’s assault for the title in 2022.
Old age hasn’t slowed Goossens down a bit as showcased with his double podium finish at Zolder last year and with SpeedHouse’s proven speed and consistency under Lasserre’s campaign last year, expect Goossens to challenge for the top positions at Valencia.
Series veterans Nicolò Rocca, Frédéric Gabillon, and Romain Iannetta would also continue their long-lasting participation in the series with their participation in Valencia and all three of them would have something to prove this weekend.
For Rocca, DF1’s withdrawal meant that he had to make a team switch to the independent team Double V Racing. Double V was a regular Top-10 contender in EuroNASCAR 2 last year thanks to the Solaris alliance, but the team’s current status as a fully independent team and lack of experience in the top class will present a big unknown for Rocca.
The unknown factor from Double V seems to have made Rocca reconsider his options as Friday’s practice showed that the Italian will drive CAAL Racing’s No. 56 Chevrolet instead, which originally didn’t have a driver listed to take part in ENPRO. Regardless of which team that Rocca competes this year, where Rocca ends up at Valencia would be crucial for his title hopes this year.
Gabillon will try to prove that RDV’s off-season changes will bring him into the title race once more. As explained in Part 1 of our Preview, RDV’s efforts last year were hampered by a new chassis that Gabillon described as “big crap”. RDV’s reversal to an old chassis, coupled with a downscaling to a single-car team to focus its efforts on the flagship No. 3 car, could be what RDV and Gabillon needed to bring the iconic duo back to the top this year.
As for Iannetta, his goal is to bring Marko Stipp Motorsport to regular top position battles. Iannetta’s part-time return last year resulted in four Top-10 finishes, but he has yet to crack the Top-5 positions with MSM. If Iannetta can do so this weekend, it can place the 42-year old Frenchman in a position for an unlikely title shot this year.
The battle in EuroNASCAR PRO’s two sub-championships, Junior Trophy and Challenger Trophy, is expected to be fierce once again. In Junior Trophy, the defending winner Ercoli will not be able to defend his sub-championship crown as he turned 26 years old last year, which meant that a new Junior Trophy winner will be crowned this year.
For Valencia there will be 7 drivers that are scheduled to battle for the Junior Trophy honors. Dauenhauer and Giorgio Maggi is expected to be the top contenders for this weekend, but there is a potential for a surprise result from Leonardo Colavita, Thomas Krasonis, Gustas Grinbergas, Jonne Rautjärvi and Aliyyah Koloc in the Junior Trophy contention.
As for Challenger Trophy, the battle is set to be even more fierce than ever as a total of 19 drivers was declared eligible to compete for the Challenger Trophy honors. All eyes will be placed on defending Challenger Trophy champion Henri Tuomaala, who once again showcased his speed among the Bronze-rated drivers last year that would give him the title after a season-long fight with Davide Dallara and Yevgen Sokolovskiy.
For Sokolovskiy, this weekend’s race is going to be a special one as the 2022 edition of NASCAR GP Spain will be the first EuroNASCAR race held after Russia’s invasion of his home country Ukraine. As NASCAR’s sole full-time Ukrainian driver, there is going to be plenty of support that will come to his aid this weekend as he prepares himself for his third season of participation in EuroNASCAR – and his second with the famous Gulf Oil colors in his No. 48 MSM Camaro.
EuroNASCAR PRO’s qualifying will begin today at 10:00 CEST (4:00 AM EDT) as the first race of the weekend is set to be aired live on 13:30 CEST (7:30 AM EDT) with Race 2 being scheduled to be held at 14:30 CEST (8:30 AM EDT) on Sunday. As usual, all NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Qualifying and Race sessions will be broadcasted live on NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ YouTube channel.
Disclaimer: Unless noted on the photo, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard / Bart Dehaese / Klemen Sofric.