Iceboys returned to the podium at Circuit Zolder after Tuomas Pöntinen charged his way from eighth place on the grid to a second place finish in the Sunday EuroNASCAR 2 race despite early struggles with brake issues.
After the struggles that Iceboys’ Henri Tuomaala and Tuomas Pöntinen experienced at Autodrom Most, the team returned on the right track at Circuit Zolder as the team returned to the podium positions with Pöntinen once more.
The weekend at Zolder started rough for the No. 23 team as Tuomaala and Pöntinen experienced brake issues during the Friday Practice sessions. “I don’t have full confidence in the brakes, you have to get on the brakes early to make sure the car turns. Somehow the balance is off anyway, as the car seems to grind when cornering,” Pontinen said on the brake issues.
The Team Bleekemolen and Iceboys worked through the night to find the root of the brake issues and a solution was found by the time the EuroNASCAR field hit the track on Saturday morning for the Qualifying session. Overnight rain made the track wet and slippery for Tuomaala’s turn in Qualifying, which made things tricky for one of the main contenders in the Challenger Trophy this year.
“It was a bit like ice skating there. It also turned out that the brake balance adjustment was stuck and I couldn’t get the pressure from the front to the back. It feels like I can’t get going, no matter what I try,” said Tuomaala on his Qualifying run.
The track dried out sufficiently at the end of the EuroNASCAR 2 Qualifying to allow the drivers who gambled on the slicks to make a faster lap time. Pöntinen was not one of them, however, as he chose to play safe and save a set of fresh Hooser slicks for the race. “We played it safe and drove with rain tires. Maybe slicks would have been the faster option, but on the other hand it was good and now we had new tyres for the race,” said the young Finn.
A Safety Car free EuroNASCAR PRO race that followed was enough for Tuomaala to secure a Challenger Trophy podium and a 14th place overall finish, but multiple Safety Car periods in the Saturday EuroNASCAR 2 hampered Pöntinen’s chances for a podium as he would end up in 4th position, having initially crossed the finishing line in 5th place.
The lack of green flag laps meant that Pöntinen could only start from 8th on the grid in the Sunday race, but the Finn heroically charged his way up through the field. He gained three positions on the opening lap alone and by lap 7, Pontinen had moved his way up to the final podium position.
Claudio Remigio Cappelli, who was running second for most of the race, tried his best to defend from Pöntinen but with three laps to go, Pöntinen was able to find a way past Cappelli to secure his second career EuroNASCAR podium finish in second place.
Pöntinen’s pace was better than race winner Liam Hezemans, but the battles he had to go through meant that Liam was too far ahead for Pöntinen to catch by the time he moved up to second position.
“It feels great, this is why we do this! I could have gone all the way to victory, but while fighting and overtaking Hezemans got away a bit too far. It tastes good, but we should get that national anthem playing next time,” said Pöntinen after the race.
Henri Tuomaala sadly wasn’t able to replicate his feat on the Saturday race as he was involved in the multi-car collision on the final restart that took him out of the race. The impact was severe enough to ignite the engine of the No. 23 Barot’s Ford, but thankfully the Finn is uninjured and is fit for the season finale at Rijeka in two weeks time.
Disclaimer: Unless noted on the photo, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series/ Klemen Sofric / Bart Dehaese.