In an exclusive interview with Claudio Remigio Cappelli, the Italian talks about his first career podium finish at Zolder as he explained more about his unique approach of racing for both MK1 Racing Italia and Race Art Technology in this year’s championship.

The NASCAR GP Belgium at Circuit Zolder saw Race Art Technology’s Claudio Remigio Cappelli score his first ever podium finish in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series after a hard-fought battle with Tuomas Pöntinen in the second EuroNASCAR 2 race.

In our exclusive interview with Cappelli, he revealed that the path to his first career podium in EuroNASCAR wasn’t an easy one as he suffered a mechanical issue in the first Practice session that caused him to lose track time. 

“We have a problem in FP1,” said Cappelli. I only did 2 laps before the transmission broke, so my debut on Zolder with a NASCAR car didn’t start well. Luckily, the weekend improved as did my time on track. Section by section I was improving right until Race 2 where I could be fast enough to stay with the most competitive drivers on track.”

After the gearbox problem was sorted out, Cappelli would later qualify the No. 18 Race Art Toyota in 9th place before he finished the crash-filled Saturday race in 6th place, with his fastest lap being quick enough for him to start fifth in the Sunday race. 

Ever the gentlemen both on and off the track, Cappelli revealed that he was worried for Vladimiros Tziortzis’ safety after Cappelli learned that Tziorzis had injured his arm in the crash that the Cypriot had with fellow title contender Martin Doubek’s crash – a crash that Cappelli witnessed from the cockpit of his car. 

“I was very afraid of the accident involving Doubek and Tziortzis, especially for the effect on our mate’s arm,” admits Cappelli. “That, and Naska’s car problem, did allow me to start in a good position [for Race 2] though.”

“I had a nice battle with Pöntinen, he’s very strong but also very clean. He was faster than me, I tried to close the door but I made a mistake in the first chicane and he passed me. I had an electrical problem during the race with sparks or pipe cable that cut revs, maybe without that issue I could stay in second but not better than this, Hezemans was too fast for me to attack.”

Following the podium finish, he thanked the Race Art Technology team for the work that they have done on the No. 18 car in his post-race interview. He revealed during the interview that he had pressure to keep the car in one piece so that it didn’t risk Giorgio Maggi’s chances for the overall title contention in EuroNASCAR PRO, something that he explained in more detail when we asked him about it. 

“I did say I had to take care of Maggi’s car as I have much respect for him,” explained Cappelli. “He is a special teammate for me, one that shares his experience every time with me. I consider the 18 to be his car, not ‘our’ car, and Giorgio is fighting for first place overall [in ENPRO] so it is normal to have the mission to save the car and let him race in the best condition.”

One unique characteristic in Cappelli’s season this year is the fact that he competes with two different teams in the two classes that he competed. Cappelli wasn’t the first driver to race with two different cars as a double duty driver – Wilfried Boucenna’s run at Knauf in 2018 was the first – but Cappelli was the first driver to do double duty with two separate teams.

When asked about this unique “two classes, two teams” approach, Cappelli explained to us how this unique arrangement came into play for the Italian driver this year.

“This is, in fact, a long story,” said Cappelli on his unique arrangement. “We were presented in a media section in February or March as one big team with the best drivers in the two classes, but it didn’t come out like what was planned initially. So I ‘forced’ the collaboration in doing it on my own.” 

“Other than that, to double the races is to double the practice too, which means more track time to improve myself and to know the tracks better.”

This unique approach does come with its set of challenges. Cappelli noted there are difficulties that he have to handle as the driver of MK1 Racing Italia’s No. 16 Shadow DNM8/Ford Mustang in EuroNASCAR PRO and as the driver of Race Art Technology’s No. 18 Toyota Camry in EuroNASCAR 2 driver.

“Are there any difficulties? There’s the position of the boxes… I’m kidding!” joked Cappelli. “Running along the pit lane after every session to find my car is tiring, but the real difficulty is to match the two different cars together. For example, one car is oversteering and one is understeering or the seat position doesn’t fit the same, to give another example…” 

“NASCAR cars always look the same but they’re run differently. The challenge is to mix the knowledge on setup and find the same one with both cars, which has not been easy to do until now.”

With just one round to go at Automotodrom Grobnik this week, Cappelli expressed his thoughts on what he would expect for this year’s season finale as he hoped that he would have less bad luck to come his way at Rijeka. 

“I only raced one time in Rijeka in the Porsche Cayman Cup last year, it was a nice and fast track,” said Cappelli on his knowledge of the Automotodrom Grobnik circuit.  “For the next race I’ll race on both Pro and EN2 with the MK1 team and the 16 car.” 

“As you know, I only have a Superpole appearance in Brands Hatch and 2 top ten results in a race during the year in PRO. I think the 16 has had some engine power problems during the year, especially at the low rpm range, and I hope that Rijeka has some peculiarities to let me have a good weekend.”

“I had a lot of bad luck during the year. Contacts, some good laps in qualifying getting canceled by my mistakes, or brake failure like in Most when I was 4th or 5th in EN2. I missed the experience this year and I hope to collect more of it in 2023.”

Cappelli also revealed that he is planning to return to the series next year, although the announcement of his 2023 plans would come at another date as he thanked Sharks Team for giving him an opportunity to race in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series on a full-time basis this year.

“Plans are done and clear for next season, but I’ll need to wait to tell you about it,” said Cappelli. “Next year the ‘grey beard’ will be more competitive, that is my mission. I’m here to race thanks to Stefano [Stefani] and Emanuele, the presidents of Sharks Team, my team managers that have helped me all over the season to make the dream come true!”

Disclaimer: Unless noted on the photo, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Klemen Sofric / Bart Dehaese.

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