Buggyra ZM Racing, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ first Emirati team, performed strongly on their EuroNASCAR debut at Circuit Ricardo Tormo last week as the team brought home valuable experience and trophies in both the Junior Trophy and Lady Trophy.

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series debutants Buggyra ZM Racing enjoyed a strong debut in the championship last week as the Emirati team learned some valuable experiences and brought home trophies in the Junior Trophy and Lady Trophy sub-classifications from the NASCAR GP Spain at Circuit Ricardo Tormo.

“This was our debut and as rookies we learned that EuroNASCAR is really sharp racing but our drivers have adapted really well. Especially for Aliyyah Koloc and Téo Calvet who navigated the packed field perfectly and left no stone unturned,” said Ludovic Pezé, Team Principal of Buggyra’s partner Motors Formula Team, who was present at Valencia as the spotter of the No. 38 team.

“As rookies, it’s important for us to learn how to set up the car properly. We are up against teams that have been around for seven years or more. They know all the details and grey areas of the set-up. But overall, we can say that our debut went very well.” 

As was announced during the pre-season, twin sisters Aliyyah and Yasmeen Koloc are entered as Buggyra’s lead drivers as the team also entered Gustas Grinbergas, the 19-year old Lithuanian driver who previously competed for Rick Ware Racing alongside current Cup Series driver Cody Ware in the Asian Le Mans Series. 

However, in between the Friday Practice sessions and Saturday’s Qualifying, Buggyra decided to replace Yasmeen with the team’s European Truck Racing Championship driver Téo Calvet as Yasmeen was still unfit due to the injuries she suffered in a crash at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps last month.

Photo courtesy of Motors Formula Team

“I enjoyed the training, it was a completely new experience. But unfortunately I still can’t race because of the Spa-Francorchamps injury. I hope it will work out for the next race,” said Yasmeen on her withdrawal from Valencia.

Aliyyah continued on to compete as the driver of the No. 29 Buggyra Ford. With her competing double duty at Valencia, she had to come face-to-face with both the tremendous heat and the increased physical demand that the EuroNASCAR cars asks for its drivers.

“It was really hot in the car,” commented Aliyyah on the heat. The car doesn’t have any assistance, so you have to drive without any mistakes. The Ricardo Tormo circuit has a number of challenging long corners where it is not easy to find the optimum trackline. I’m still learning, but it’s slower in the heat.” 

The high learning curve meant that Aliyyah was only able to qualify 23rd on her first EuroNASCAR PRO Qualifying session. Despite this, she was running comfortably within the Top-20 positions in the Saturday race and the attrition meant that she was on the verge of scoring a Top-20 finish when mechanical issues struck with just two laps to go.

“At that moment, my mind flashed: No, no, no! I tried my best to keep going. I was quite upset because I was having a good race and managed to pass a few cars,” said the 17-year old Emirati driver on the incident.

Thankfully for her, the Buggyra team was able to repair her car in time for the first EuroNASCAR 2 race that was held later in the day. She would take the checkered flag in 17th place, the fastest of the Lady Trophy drivers.

“The team worked hard so that I could race in the NASCAR 2 category after technical problems in the EuroNASCAR PRO. I am very grateful for that,” said Aliyyah. 

“The start was quite chaotic, several cars in front of me spun. I had to avoid them, so I lost some time. I caught up with Téo, but that’s when my rival picked me up from behind and I spun. Then I battled it out with Téo again. It was close, but we managed to avoid contact. I ended up being the fastest woman, which is great.”

Things went better for teammate Grinbergas in the EuroNASCAR PRO race as he managed to survive the attrition to bring home a Top-10 result after a hard-fought battle with the likes of Max Lanza and Lucas Luhr, a result that also gave him a podium finish in the Junior Trophy.

“I got great results for the team, I am happy with the whole race weekend,” said Grinbergas on his debut EuroNASCAR race. “We learned a lot. I had a lot of on-track battles. There were also a lot of problems, but we were able to solve them and keep improving. The more time we have in the car, the faster we will be.”

For Téo Calvet, he survived a mid-race spin due to contact with Academy Motorsport driver Andrea Tronconi to finish 16th in the Saturday EuroNASCAR 2 race.

“I’ve never driven on the Ricardo Tormo circuit before. And let me tell you, it’s not an easy track at all,” said the 21-year old Frenchman on his first EuroNASCAR impressions. “The racing was dramatic, full of battles and overtaking, I enjoyed it. The NASCAR car is a lot like a race truck, so the change wasn’t that dramatic.”

“In the first race the driver in front of me braked hard and I hit him from behind. At that moment I suddenly saw the sky and got a bit scared. But I really enjoyed my time here in Valencia.”

Sunday’s races followed a relatively similar story for the Buggyra team as Aliyyah once again encountered problems, this time in the EN2 race as a first-lap puncture and the subsequent pit stop would relegate her to 27th place at the end. 

She did, however, benefitted from an array of post-race penalties in the PRO race later that day to claim a stunning 13th place finish.

Gustas Grinbergas went on to finish in 11th on the Sunday PRO race, narrowly missing out on a double Top-10 finish. The result was enough to bring him a second Junior Trophy podium finish, capping off a strong debut weekend for the Lithuanian driver.

Téo Calvet also had an impressive Sunday as he charged from 25th on the grid to finish in 12th place, bringing home the extra 4 championship points for most positions gained in the process.

Photo courtesy of Motors Formula Team

The results from Valencia meant that Grinbergas currently sits 9th in the overall PRO standings with Calvet sitting 10th in the overall EN2 standings. Their combined results meant that Buggyra’s No. 38 team came out from Valencia in eighth place on the Teams standings.

“Our drivers were great this weekend, the atmosphere was great, there were some close battles on track and the whole team has been improving. We are looking forward to the next races,” summed up Ludovic Pezé on the team’s EuroNASCAR debut.

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

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