The internet sensation Alberto Naska swept the two EuroNASCAR 2 races of NASCAR GP Czech Republic at Autodrom Most as his closest rival Liam Hezemans experienced a troublesome round that hampered his title hopes significantly.
The NASCAR GP Czech Republic at Autodrom Most proved to be the perfect round for EuroNASCAR 2’s internet sensation Alberto Naska as he swept both races and took advantage of Liam Hezemans’ struggles to further extend his lead in the championship.
Friday’s Practice sessions initially started off slow for Naska as setup issues put him on the backfoot, but a complete setup overhaul by the CAAL Racing crew allowed Naska to top the combined Practice timesheets with a time of 1:40.686, the only driver to set a 1:40 time out of the 26 drivers that took part.
Saturday rolled on and in between the two days Dario Caso quietly withdrew his No. 9 Italicus Camaro out of the race, leaving only 25 cars to compete for Qualifying and the races. Martin Doubek would give the home fans a happy start to the day as he claimed his first pole position of the year with a time of 1:40.752.
Vladimiros Tziortzis, eager to avenge his engine failure at Vallelunga, came second while Naska topped the Rookie Trophy honors in third. Liam Hezemans and Tuomas Pöntinen followed in fourth and fifth respectively while Claudio Remigio Cappelli finished 7th as the leading Legend Trophy driver, the Italian once again running his unique “two classes, two teams” approach for Most.
Emirati’s Aliyyah Koloc, who considered Most as her home race given that her father was a Czech and Buggyra ZM Racing’s racing team headquarters was based in the Czech Republic, finished the session as the fastest Lady Trophy driver in 12th place. Only 23 cars set a lap time during Qualifying as Paolo Valeri and Janne Koikkalainen failed to set a lap time.
Twenty-three cars took their place on the starting grid for the first EuroNASCAR 2 race on Saturday, which went underway at 6:05 PM local time. Doubek was able to hold on to his lead, but Tuomas Pöntinen lost the back bumper body panel of his No. 23 Barot’s Ford Mustang due to contact during the chicane. This later led to him going off-course at Turn 15 as the handling issues started to creep into his car.
At the same time, Patrick Schober in the No. 27 Double V Racing Ford Mustang misjudged his speed entering turn 15 and spun himself out of the race. Naska then got past Doubek in lap 2 and he was leading the race when the first Safety Car period was called on lap 3 to recover Schober’s stranded car.
The caution period lasted for just two laps before the race was restarted in a single-file fashion on lap 5. Naska retained the lead entering the chicane and over the course of the lap, numerous cars such as Paul Jouffreau and Aliyyah received damage due to contact with other cars while Pöntinen went off-course again, this time at Turn 19.
Then, on lap 6, Michael Bleekemolen – driving the No. 69 HSU.nl Ford Mustang that won in ENPRO earlier that day – lost his brakes entering the chicane and crashed into Kasparas Vingilis’ No. 1 Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang. The incident took both cars out of the race and left Team Bleekemolen with a lot of work to do to make sure the No. 69 car was ready for Sunday.
The Safety Car was called soon after and on lap 10, the race was restarted for a second time with Naska still in the lead. Unfortunately, drama struck immediately as Miguel Gomes and Luli del Castello tangled at the chicane, resulting in a spin for Gomes and the retirement of del Castello. The caution was called again and just as the Safety Car board was brought up by the marshalls, Liam Hezemans crashed into his teammate Martin Doubek.
The incident took Hezemans out of the race while Doubek continued with his rear-right quarter panel caved into the main chassis area. The third caution period lasted four laps and because the caution period ended on lap 14, the race’s initial scheduled distance, the race was extended into Overtime with a two-lap shootout to the end.
Naska once again took the field to another restart period and once again he was able to hold onto the lead of the race. In the end, neither Doubek or Tziortzis would have an answer to Naska as he rode the No. 88 The Italian Box/Wakala Camaro to the Victory Lane for the fourth time this year.
“I was truly going to vomit inside the car because we spent half an hour warming up the tires!” joked Naska in the Victory Lane. “It was really hard to keep focus because it was a long race. I think I have the better pace so there was no problem in that but four restarts, it’s really hard! I spent the entire race with Doubek, who was always starting better than me, so that was really hard but the car was great. The team did an incredible job because yesterday we were struggling a lot and today the car was amazing.”
Doubek brought home his damaged No. 7 Orion Ford Mustang to second place while Tziortzis came home third. Behind the leading trio, a last-lap scuffle that was started by Pöntinen and Christian Malcharek at the chicane led to numerous drivers having to take avoiding action. Jouffreau, who had entered the pits on the second caution period for minor damage fixes, capitalized from the incident as he gained six places on the final lap to finish in fourth place.
Another driver that capitalized from the incident is Marko Stipp Motorsport’s Yevgen Sokolovskiy, who found a clear opening that allowed him to move up to fourth place on the final lap. He eventually lost his position to Jouffreau, but he still took the checkered flag in fifth place. It was Sokolovskiy’s first career Top-5 finish and as a reward he brought home the top honors in Legend Trophy and the bonus points for the most positions gained.
Cappelli finished sixth after spinning out on the first lap while CAAL Racing’s Gil Linster finished seventh. Aliyyah Koloc came home in 8th place to secure another win in the Lady Trophy ahead of Alina Loibnegger, who claimed her first career top-10 finish in 10th place. Pöntinen eventually took home his damaged No. 23 Ford in 9th place, finishing in between the top two Lady Trophy finishers.
The same twenty-three cars that took the start in the Saturday race lined up once more for the Sunday race as the green flag was waved at approximately 11:15 AM local time. Naska, who started on pole courtesy of his fastest lap on Saturday, led the field on the opening lap with Doubek, Tziortzis, Pöntinen, and Ulysse Delsaux in pursuit of the championship leader.
Problems came on the second lap, however, as the two leading Lady Trophy contenders had incidents that led to the Safety Car being called. First to hit trouble is Aliyyah, who trailbraked and spun her No. 29 Gleec Ford at the chicane. Later in the lap it was del Castello’s turn to hit trouble as contact with Cappelli sent her car to the gravel trap. Both drivers would rejoin the race eventually, but del Castello ended up one lap behind because her car needed to be extricated from the gravel trap.
The race was slowed down for 2 laps and as the restart was called on lap 5, the stewards made an unprecedented call. Because of the amount of incidents in both ENPRO and EN2 on Saturday, everyone was placed under probation and the EuroNASCAR 2 drivers had to be guided to the end of the first sector with Full-Course Yellow before they could finally restart the race.
Naska was able to retain his position when the race was restarted, but the same can’t be said to Ulysse Delsaux as the former EN2 champion was caught napping at the restart. The mistake allowed Pöntinen to move up to 4th place and the positions in the top-5 remain the same as the field enters lap 8.
On that lap, Paolo Valeri spun out his No. 8 Italicus Camaro and came to a stop in the middle of the track. Valeri tried to rejoin, but Roberto Benedetti in the No. 65 FOMAS Group/UTOR Camaro was unable to avoid Valeri’s Camaro and both drivers made contact, resulting in the two cars being wedged together on the racing line. Valeri was out on the spot while Benedetti eventually rejoined the race.
The Safety Car was called once more on lap 9 and after three laps under the caution to separate Valeri and Benedetti’s car, the race got underway again with the same FCY restart procedure as before. Naska once again held the lead at the restart, but behind him Pöntinen ducked out of the restart formation early and made an amazing restart that resulted in him moving up from 4th to 2nd place, although the stewards began to suspect that he had jumped the restart.
Pöntinen’s move relegated Doubek to 3rd place, but the Czech driver found a way past the Finn on the next lap after Pöntinen ran wide at the chicane. Doubek tried to respond and was clawing up the two second deficit that he now has to Naska, but it was too late in the end as Naska crossed the finish line in first place once more to give him the sweep at Autodrom Most.
“This was certainly unexpected because the way we started the weekend was not good!” said Naska in the Victory Lane. “We were not fast, we were struggling for the setup, but I think today’s victory is a conjunction between the teamwork and my experience because if this happened in the first race, I wouldn’t be able to win.”
Doubek and Pöntinen filled in the remaining podium spots initially, but just after Naska arrived in the Victory Lane to celebrate his 5th career victory in EN2, the stewards decided that Pöntinen had jumped the final restart and gave him a 30-second time penalty that relegated him down to 18th place in the official results.
The penalty would promote Tziortzis to third to make it a double podium finish for the Cyrpiot driver. Liam Hezemans, who finished 5th on the line, would have been classified in 4th place but he too received a penalty as he had moved out of the restart formation too early. The penalty dropped Liam down to 13th place, putting another dent to Liam’s title hopes after his mistake on Saturday.
Linster and Delsaux completes the top-5 with Jouffreau coming home in sixth ahead of Patrick Schober, who fought his way from last place on the grid to finish seventh. Malcharek and the Marko Stipp duo of Sokolovskiy and Gomes would complete the top-10 finishers with Sokolovskiy claiming the top spot in the Legend Trophy once more.
Cappelli would eventually finish in 11th after serving a drive-through penalty for being the instigator of the collision with del Castello. Aliyyah finished right behind him in 12th to give her a double victory in the Lady Trophy sub-classifications. She finished two positions ahead of del Castello, who earned the lucky dog on the second caution period that allowed her to finish on the lead lap in 14th position.
Loibnegger was unable to repeat her heroics from Race 1 as she was brought to a halt on lap 6 due to mechanical issues on her No. 94 Racingfuel Camaro, making her the first retirement of the race.
Disclaimer: Unless noted on the photo, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese / Klemen Sofric.