A strong start to the Valencia NASCAR Fest for Team Bleekemolen failed to give the Dutch team the ideal results that they wanted, with Sebastiaan Bleekemolen admitting that luck didn’t come their way in Spain.
Despite a strong performance in the first round of the 2023 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Team Bleekemolen was left with some disappointment as the team failed to secure the results that they wanted to achieve in Spain.
Team Bleekemolen’s weekend started off strongly after Vittorio Ghirelli and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen finishing second and fourth in the combined Practice timesheets. The strong start continued on Qualifying, with Ghirelli and Sebastiaan qualifying third and fifth respectively after Sebastiaan topped the leaderboards in the initial Qualifying session.
Sadly, the first race of the weekend didn’t go as well as the team had hoped for. Both Ghirelli and Sebastiaan lost positions at the start, forcing them to fight their way up the field. By the time that they were able to get themselves into fourth and fifth respectively, they had lost the three leaders and had to settle for a top-5 finish instead.
“Everything was top notch and we were in a very good position,” said Sebastiaan on Team Bleekemolen’s official post-race release. “That’s why it was frustrating that we got stuck at the start. In the first race we finished fourth and fifth. I was behind my teammate and didn’t risk overtaking. The podium would have been quite possible.”
Things then got worse in the second race after both drivers encountered problems that relegated them down the running order. Ghirelli’s contact with Vladimiros Tziortzis in the second restart resulted in a post-race time penalty for the Italian, while terminal mechanical issues forced Sebastiaan to retire from the race.
“In the second race, I retired due to a problem with the throttle and a leaking radiator,” revealed Sebastiaan. “The potential was definitely there, but unfortunately it didn’t come out.”
“It’s very positive that we’re in such a good position, but luck wasn’t with us this time. That is why we are really looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Sebastiaan’s father Michael experienced similar issues on his EuroNASCAR 2 races. Michael had qualified his car ninth in the Qualifying session, but contact in both races meant that he was only able to finish 14th and 15th in the end.
“After two bad accidents, I am happy to be able to race again,” said Michael, recalling the skiing incident that he suffered earlier this year. “In a field of 30 cars, finishing ninth in Qualifying is certainly not bad.”
“In Race 2, I climbed immediately from P18 to P11 at the start, but was torpedoed a corner later. My rear bumper was off and the car was no longer good to drive. The potential was there, but things weren’t going well. The other drivers on the team were always up front, but eventually had some setbacks as well.”
Team Bleekemolen’s third car, the purple-and-black No. 66 Rellumix Chevrolet Camaro driven by Thomas Dombrowski, also experienced an up-and-down weekend at Valencia. A contact and a spin in Dombrowski’s EuroNASCAR PRO races resulted in the young French driver sitting second-to-last in the championship standings.
He made it up, however, with a double top-10 finish in EuroNASCAR 2. He also took the top spot in Rookie Trophy on both races at Valencia, a result that allowed him to be sixth in the EN2 driver’s standings with 58 points, one point ahead of the 2021 EN2 champion Martin Doubek.
Melvin de Groot, the EuroNASCAR 2 driver of the No. 69 Ford Mustang team, was surprisingly absent for the season opening round. It is currently unknown what caused de Groot’s absence, but it is likely that a clash with his working schedule prevented the reigning Legend Trophy winner from competing at Valencia.
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