World of EuroNASCAR’s third and final Race Preview for NASCAR GP Spain at Circuit Ricardo Tormo previews the 34-car strong grid for the ever unpredictable EuroNASCAR 2 division as NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ junior class gets ready for the opening 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 teams count and EuroNASCAR PRO, the first round of EuroNASCAR 2 this year will feature the largest grid in the class’ history as 34 drivers are listed in the tentative Entry List to take part this weekend.
In EuroNASCAR 2’s case, this will break the previous record that was set at Valencia three years ago where 29 drivers were entered to the opening round of the 2019 season, all of them ultimately took part in the races itself.
For the first time in the class’ history, there is a strong chance that a repeat champion will occur as two former EuroNASCAR 2 champions, Martin Doubek and Ulysse Delsaux, are scheduled to compete full-time in this year’s championship.
Doubek, perhaps unsurprisingly, will become the favorite for the title following his championship run last year where he scored five wins and eight podium finishes on his way to beat teammate Tobias Dauenhauer in a very closely-contested battle for the title.
For Delsaux, he will be making his return to EuroNASCAR 2 after two years of competition in EuroNASCAR PRO that sadly produced relatively little in results. RDV’s downscaling opens up the opportunity for the 24-year old Frenchman to be reunited with his mentor Fred Gabillon in the No. 3 RDV team and with both drivers now united in the same team for the first time since 2018, expect Delsaux to be a force to be reckoned in the junior class once more.
While Doubek and Delsaux are vying to become EuroNASCAR 2’s first repeat champion, drivers such as experienced veteran Advait Deodhar and talented youngsters Vladimiros Tziortzis and Francesco Garisto are aiming to be crowned champion in the mostly unpredictable division.
For Advait Deodhar, who scored a historic maiden victory at Brands Hatch last year, Valencia will mark the start of a new adventure as he joins the Not Only Motorsport team that finished third in last year’s championship with Naveh Talor.
Deodhar’s capabilities as a driver in EuroNASCAR 2 has been proven before with his unlikely charge to 4th place in his first full-time season and the five Top-5 finishes that he achieved last year. With Deodhar aspiring to move to the top class in the future, securing a top finishing position this weekend would provide an important result for the Indian driver’s title challenge.
Vladimiros Tziortzis will continue his adventure with the Academy Motorsport team as he now gets transferred to the team that ex-Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve drove in ENPRO last year, the No. 5 Academy EuroNASCAR FJ.
Tziortzis has had numerous close calls with the victory before during his two-year stint with Academy’s No. 1 team, a feat best exemplified in Valencia last year where he was the only non-Hendriks driver to challenge the Hendriks duo of Doubek and Tobias Dauenhauer for the win. As a result, it is expected that Tziortzis and the No. 5 Academy team will provide a very strong challenge for the win this weekend.
Francesco Garisto, on the other hand, will be looking to follow up his run of double Top-5 finishes at Vallelunga last year that gave Shadow Racing Cars their first Top-5 championship finish last year.
While Garisto had some controversial on-track moments last year, Garisto has showcased an increase in both performance and maturity on the Shadow DNM8 and with the Italian being only 19 years old at the start of the year, there’s a lot of potential that can still be unlocked from both Garisto and the Shadow/MK1 team in this year’s championship.
EuroNASCAR 2 is always well known for its talented rookie field and this year’s championship is going to be no exception as the arrival of Paul Jouffreau, Leonardo Colavita, Liam Hezemans, and Alberto Naska is expected to shake up the grid in 2022.
For Frenchman Paul Jouffreau, he arrived to EuroNASCAR 2 with plenty of hype seeing that he was handpicked by SpeedHouse team owner Lucas Lasserre to compete in the Club Challenge division last year as a protege to both Lasserre and Eric Quintal.
While he ultimately didn’t win the Club Challenge division, Jouffreau has showcased that he’s ready for the step up to EuroNASCAR 2 and with plenty of track time during the pre-season days, it is predicted that a Top 10 finish would be the minimum target for Jouffreau this weekend.
Racers Motorsport driver Leonardo Colavita might be only 16 years old – his debut at Rijeka last year made him the youngest driver to race in EuroNASCAR since American Giles Thornton – but he too had plenty of hype going around him as his performances last year showcased that he’s more than capable to compete against the (much) older and experienced adversaries on the races, coming narrowly close to the Top 5 finishing positions at the end of last year.
If anything, it is argued that Colavita’s performance was not a surprise considering that he was handpicked by Tad Geschickter to be supported by his Cup Series outfit JTG Daugherty Racing. With Colavita now receiving the full backing of JTG Daughterty, we can expect greater things from the young Italian this weekend.
Another Italian scheduled to compete full-time this year that carries plenty of hype around them is Alberto Fontana, better known to many people as the YouTube content creator Alberto Naska.
Naska has had his eyes set on competing in EuroNASCAR for some time ever since he first tested the Euro Series cars in 2019 and this year, he finally was able to realize the dream to compete in the series with powerhouse team CAAL Racing. Naska has shown his talent in both car and motorcycle racing before and with a promising pre-season test with CAAL that he recapped on his YouTube channel, we can expect Naska to provide a surprise in this week’s season opener.
Liam Hezemans’ name might have rang a bell to EuroNASCAR fans and that’s because he is the younger brother of two-time Euro Series champion Loris Hezemans. Liam, understandably, will receive the support of his brother as he jumps from karting to stock car racing and with Team Hezeberg fully backing his efforts in 2022, a strong rookie season is on the trots for the younger Hezemans.
The record grid size for EuroNASCAR 2 meant that EN2’s sub-championship trophies Rookie Trophy, Legend Trophy and Lady Trophy will be highly contested at Valencia as there will be 15, 14, and 5 drivers that will compete for the respective sub-championship honors.
Legend Trophy in particular is expected to feature a fierce battle for the top honors following Max Lanza’s departure to the top class. Melvin de Groot is expected to be the top contender for this trophy following an impressive part-time outing with the Team Bleekemolen team that landed him an unlikely podium finish at Zolder last year.
NASCAR’s sole Ukrainian driver Yevgen Sokolovskiy, who once again finished runner-up in the Legend Trophy classifications last year, is expected to be Melvin’s main Legend Trophy opponent this year.
Sokolovskiy has narrowly lost out to Arianna Casoli and Lanza in the previous years and with his pace continuing to improve since his last-minute debut in the lower division back in 2020, he will be more motivated than ever to bring the trophy home to give Ukrainian race fans a piece of silverware that will undoubtedly boost their motivation and presence in both the racing scene and the global situation.
Lady Trophy would also see a highly contested battle as a record five female drivers were entered this week. Arianna Casoli, EuroNASCAR 2’s most experienced driver and now a two-time Lady Trophy winner, will begin a new chapter in her career as she moves to SpeedHouse to race the French team’s No. 14 car this year.
Alina Loibnegger will continue to challenge Casoli for the top Lady Trophy honors as Casoli’s replacement driver Luli del Castello and the Koloc sisters Aliyyah and Yasmeen* will join the battle to become Euro Series’ top female driver.
* Yasmeen Koloc has been replaced by Téo Calvet after she was declared unfit to compete for the rest of the weekend following evaluations done by Buggyra during Thursday’s pre-season open test and Friday’s practice. Yasmeen was injured in an accident at the 24H Series race at Circuit de Spa-Franchorchamps on 23-24 April 2022.
EuroNASCAR 2’s qualifying will begin today at 10:40 CEST (4:40 AM EDT) as the first race of the weekend is set to be aired live on 17:15 CEST (11:15 AM EDT) with Race 2 being scheduled to be held at 11:15 CEST (5:15 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 / Bart Dehaese / Klemen Sofric.