The NASCAR GP Czech Republic at Autodrom Most delivered as a chaotic weekend in EuroNASCAR PRO gave Sebastiaan Bleekemolen his first EuroNASCAR career win on Saturday race while Alon Day took the spoils on Sunday.
The NASCAR GP Czech Republic at Autodrom Most delivered once more as a chaotic weekend for the EuroNASCAR PRO drivers resulted in Sebastiaan Bleekemolen taking his first EuroNASCAR career win in the Saturday race while Alon Day extended his winning record after he took the spoils on Sunday.
A sunny Friday greeted the drivers for the two Practice sessions, which ended with Alon Day on top after he beat his closest rival Nicolo Rocca by 0.314 seconds to top the combined Practice timesheets. In total, 29 drivers ultimately took part in NASCAR GP Czech Republic as neither Stefano Attianese, Yasmeen Koloc, and Christoph Lenz entered the race while Mato Matosevic was replaced by another Swiss driver: Yann Zimmer, the two-time ENPRO race winner who made his return to the series after 8 years.
Alon Day continued to give a strong impression to his opponents on Saturday’s Qualifying session as he claimed his first Qualifying pole position of 2022 with a time of 1:40.126 in the Superpole, more than a second faster than the Qualifying lap record set by Rocca in 2019. Home crowd’s favorite Martin Doubek was second with Rocca in third, but worryingly for the field they were nearly half a second behind Day’s Qualifying time and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen – who claimed fourth – was another three tenths behind.
None of the Junior Trophy drivers qualified to the Superpole for the first time this year. Title contender Giorgio Maggi was the best of the Junior drivers in 11th while Liam Hezemans – racing a Toyota for this week – made it a Junior Trophy sweep for the sixth row of the grid. Henri Tuomaala was the fastest of the Challenger Trophy drivers in 14th while Zimmer qualified the No. 94 Racingfuel Camaro in 16th place.
After a lengthy delay to the Saturday race due to a number of red flags in the FIA European Truck Racing Championship sessions, the race went underway at approximately 2:30 PM local time with 28 starters – Davide Dallara failed to start due to mechanical issues. Day made a good start and led the field into chicane, but unfortunately for him Doubek touched him and sent the No. 24 Monster Energy Camaro into a spin as the field entered turn two.
What followed was nothing short but chaos as The Big One unfolded in front of the thousands of spectators that had visited Autodrom Most. Day, Doubek, Rocca, Maggi, Tuomaala, Gianmarco Ercoli, Marc Goossens, Romain Iannetta, Patrick Lemarié, Jonne Rautjärvi, Claudio Remigio Cappelli, and Leonardo Colavita were all involved while a separate crash involving Federico Monti happened later in the lap, forcing the Safety Car to be called for the first time.
Due to the slow speed nature of The Big One, the majority of the drivers involved were able to rejoin the race and only Lemarié was taken out of the race from it, having limped his No. 5 Academy FJ to the pits with a right-front puncture and suspension damage. That being said, a lot of them were sent laps down due to repairs as only Doubek, Ercoli, Day, Rautjärvi and Cappelli were able to continue without the need to visit the pits.
The incident would shuffle Bleekemolen to the lead of the race after the Dutchman found a clear gap to get through the incident unharmed. Following behind Bleekemolen is Alexander Graff, Ercoli, Doubek and Yann Zimmer, who escaped the wreck after he was forced to get through the escape road when the field stacked up at Turn 1. Also avoiding the wreck is Aliyyah Koloc, who moved all the way up to 6th place from 21st on the grid.
After 4 caution laps, the race was restarted on lap 6 as Bleekemolen and Graff immediately broke away from the field. Behind them, Koloc struggled to maintain her position at the restart as she got swallowed up by the drivers behind her and lost 9 positions while Day climbed 7 positions in the space of just one lap, having restarted at the tail end of the lead lap in 18th place.
Bleekemolen and Graff continued their battle for the next few laps, but the caution was called again on lap 10 after Leo Colavita stopped his No. 47 Colavita Chevy in the middle of the hairpin. That led to 3 laps behind the Safety Car and as Bleekemolen started the dash to the end, Day went past Frederic Gabillon and Max Lanza to get himself in the top-5 positions. He then made quick work of Zimmer and was looking poised to win the race until he got stuck behind Ercoli.
Despite his best efforts, Day was unable to get past the Italian and as the two championship contenders banged doors on the last two laps, Bleekemolen was able to fend off Graff’s challenge to take the checkered flag. It was the first EuroNASCAR victory for both himself and Team Bleekemolen and it’s a win that made him ENPRO’s 25th individual race winner in history.
“It was an amazing race, it was a little bit easy to defend after I got to the front at the start!” said Bleekemolen in the Victory Lane. “I was a little bit lucky, but I could stay out of trouble and was controlling the race. Alexander was really fast, but I think we were the faster car on-track so I’m really happy!”
Graff, Ercoli, Day and Zimmer would complete the top-5 as Max Lanza claimed his third Challenger Trophy win of the season with his 6th place finish. Gabillon, Yevgen Sokolovskiy, Cappelli, and Cosimo Barberini completed the top-10 while Vittorio Ghirelli came home 11th to bring home the extra points for most positions gained. Ghirelli had to start from last due to persistent electrical issues on his No. 36 Infitto.eu Camaro that made him unable to set a lap time in Qualifying.
Koloc was able to hold on to 12th position in the end to score her maiden Junior Trophy win in Buggyra ZM Racing’s home race. Liam Hezemans had issues on the closing few laps that relegated him to 18th place while Maggi, Goossens, and Rocca would only finish 20th, 23rd and 24th respectively. Doubek had to serve a drive-through penalty for starting The Big One, but it didn’t matter in the end as he retired at the end of lap 8 due to handling issues.
The Sunday race went to green flag as scheduled on 3:00 PM local time and once again, Day started up front after he set the fastest lap time in the Saturday race. Leonardo Colavita didn’t take part at the start as his car was unable to be repaired for the rest of the weekend while Aliyyah Koloc and Nicolò Gabossi experienced mechanical issues that forced them to retire on the pace laps.
With everyone under probation due to the amount of crashes on Saturday, the field took heed of the warning and they carefully went by Turn 1 and 2 with no issues as Day quickly opened up a 1 second lead over Graff, who was able to get by front row sitter Liam on the opening lap.
While the front of the field went relatively stable over the next laps of the race, there were plenty of action in the midfield as the drivers that were unable to set a fast lap time yesterday due to their involvement in Saturday’s Big One – such as Maggi, Doubek, Goossens, and Lemarié – were all fighting hard to get themselves into the top-10 positions.
The midfield action predictably led to some chaos, such as the incident between Iannetta and Fabrizio Armetta at the chicane on lap 7 that resulted in Armetta’s spin and a subsequent drive-through penalty for the French veteran driver. Armetta, Lanza, and Sokolovskiy would later have their separate off-course excursions as Zimmer and Cappelli tangled on lap 10. Cappelli subsequently retired from the race and had to watch the rest of the race from the top of his No. 16 Cremona Gronde Ford Mustang.
In the end, the Safety Car was called on lap 12 after Davide Dallara spun out and got himself stuck in the gravel trap. A three-lap caution period followed before the field assembled for a two-lap sprint to the end. Day, surprisingly, made a terrible restart and was overtaken by Liam Hezemans – who had been running in 3rd for most of the race – on the run to the chicane before Liam overshot it, narrowly missing Day’s No. 24 Chevy.
That put Day back in the lead of the race and a brief off-track excursion for Graff on lap 16 secured Day’s path to the win. It was his fourth win of the season and the 31st of his illustrious EuroNASCAR career.
“It’s the second time I’ve avoided a missile coming!” joked Day on Liam’s near-miss at the restart. “I don’t know what happened there, I was a bit slow with the restart. I missed a shift and then Graff was on it, I had to say he’s a tough contender! He definitely deserves to be a contender for the championship.”
“I’m just happy for the team, it didn’t work yesterday because of luck and this time it works so we can celebrate a bit. All I think about is the championship so I think we’re good with that and we will keep pushing to win more races!”
Graff had to contend with a second consecutive runner-up finish as Ercoli took advantage of Liam’s mistake to claim third once more. Bleekemolen finished fourth while Ghirelli finished fifth after a strong showcase of his pace on the Not Only Motorsport Chevrolet. Finishing right behind him is his former teammate Maggi, who took home the Junior Trophy honors once more.
Lemarié finished 7th in the end and claimed the bonus points for most positions gained to cap off a very solid performance for the 54-year old Frenchman. Rocca, Lanza and Gabillon would complete the top-10 with Lanza once again taking home the top spot in Challenger Trophy.
The end of the race itself was marred by a scary incident at the last corner involving Iannetta and Riccardo Romagnoli. Both drivers tangled together and Romagnoli’s No. 65 Chevy, which was on the outside, hooked Iannetta’s No. 46 SimThunder Chevy into the outside Armco barrier at high speed. Despite the severity of the incident, both Iannetta and Romagnoli were uninjured.
Disclaimer: Unless noted on the photo, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese / Klemen Sofric.
Last Updated: 7 September 2022