Iceboys Racing’s duo of Henri Tuomaala and Tuomas Pöntinen experienced a weekend full of struggles at Autodrom Most as crashes and a post-race penalty costed them a chance for podiums and strong finishes in the Czech Republic.
Iceboys Racing entered NASCAR GP Czech Republic with plenty of optimism, but they ultimately came home with plenty of disappointment as crashes after crashes and a post-race penalty cost the Iceboys duo a good chance of strong finishes at Autodrom Most.
After a strong Friday Practice where Henri Tuomaala and Tuomas Pöntinen finished 13th and 10th on the combined timesheets for their respective classes, Saturday saw the first sign of struggles for the team as Tuomaala failed to advance to the Superpole in the EuroNASCAR PRO Qualifying session. He qualified the No. 23 Barot’s Ford Mustang in 14th place due to struggles with finding pace on a new set of Hoosier slick tires.
“I just didn’t have full confidence in driving with the new tires. The differences are small of course, but this was all up to me,” admitted Tuomaala on Iceboys’ post-race press conference.
The struggles continued during the race itself as Tuomaala was one of the 12 drivers involved in the Big One that happened in the first corner. He then had to make an unscheduled pit stop for repairs and would ultimately finish the race in 19th position, one lap down from teammate and race winner Sebastiaan Bleekemolen.
“There was a collision ahead, I didn’t have time to brake and someone then hit the rear of the car. The main power switch turned on in that hit and I lost time wondering what happened to it. The fiber parts burned to such a degree that I had to make a pit stop. Finally I tried to set a fast lap, but that didn’t work out either,” said Tuomaala on what happened after he was involved in the Big One.
Pöntinen, on the other hand, had started his Saturday well as he qualified 5th to give himself a good chance to score his second career podium finish. Unfortunately, a first-lap collision with another driver tore off the rear bumper of his No. 23 Ford, resulting in a loss of handling that Pöntinen had to contend with for the rest of the race.
Three Safety Car periods helped Pöntinen to keep his car in 5th place as he entered the final lap of the race, but he lost a lot of position after Christian Malcharek spun out when he entered the chicane side-by-side with Pöntinen and touched with his car, forcing Pöntinen to go to the gravel trap and lose a lot of positions in the end.
“Someone hit me in the rear on the chicane at the start and the bumper flew away. It was impossible to drive the car because there was no grip in the fast corners. Even on the last lap there were enough incidents that dropped me from fifth place to ninth. It’s a pity because otherwise I had a good “flow” with the car”, said Pöntinen on what happened in the first EuroNASCAR 2 race.
Despite the handling issues, his fastest lap time was still fast enough to secure a 7th place starting position in the Sunday EN2 race. Pöntinen showed promising pace and had climbed his way up to 4th position when the second caution period was called. He had got past Malcharek and Paul Jouffreau on the initial green flag laps and overtook Ulysse Delsaux when the Frenchman made a slow getaway on the first restart.
However, things took a turn for the worse for Pöntinen in the second restart. It started well initially as Pöntinen made a fantastic restart and was able to get past both Vladimiros Tziortzis and Martin Doubek to get himself into 2nd place and a shot for his second podium finish. Unfortunately, by doing so Pöntinen ducked out of the restart formation line early and he was investigated by the stewards for a possible jump start.
The stewards eventually decided that Pöntinen had not followed the restart procedure properly and was handed a 30-second post-race time penalty. Pöntinen and Iceboys made an appeal, stating that the lights had already turned green when he started to accelerate and broke away from the restart formation.
The appeal was rejected, however, and the penalty would stand, meaning that the penalty costed Pöntinen his second podium finish in EuroNASCAR 2 as he had crossed the finish line in 3rd place.
“The decision is totally incomprehensible!” said Pöntinen on his penalty. “We were driving on a formation and I clearly saw the green light at the flag, but the stewards said I did it wrong when I pressed the accelerator. We lodged an appeal but it was rejected. It’s really confusing that you changed the rules in the middle of a race.”
Tuomaala then suffered yet another tough race on his Sunday race. He was fighting competitively in the midpack initially, but at some point he lost the rear bumper of his car and just like what Pöntinen had experienced on Saturday, the results were catastrophic to the car handling.
To make matters worse, Tuomaala then started to have brake issues and the broadcast replay showed Tuomaala having a high-speed off because he was unable to slow the car down for the chicane. Tuomaala somehow escaped with no damage to his car or the other competitors, but his rallycross heroics led to a visit to the pits for a check on his brakes and in the end, he finished one lap down again in 21st position.
“It was a shitty weekend. It was terrible to drive the car without a bumper on a fast track like Most and the brakes failed too,” said Tuomaala on his issues in Race 2.
Disclaimer: Unless noted on the photo, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese / Klemen Sofric.