Blois, France – It’s time for short track racing! After a memorable season opener in Valencia, the battle for the European NASCAR crown resumes this weekend on the famed 1.9 kilometers of the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit
with four ultra-spectacular races and a american themed event.
Looking for favorites? That may be a hard task! This year the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series field is competitive like never before and there are at least 10 drivers that can legitimately aim for the top step of the podium. First in line is reigning champion Ander Vilarino (#2 TFT-Banco Santander Chevrolet SS), who won 3 of the last 4 races at Brands Hatch and swept the British weekend last year: “The fans in Brands Hatch are incredibly passionate about NASCAR and I received a lot of messages on social networks from people looking forward to this event,” said the Spaniard. “The races are always very tight and it’s difficult to pass without a little contact. I love the track and I expect to do very well this weekend”.
Sitting atop the standings is the PK Carsport duo formed by Bert Longin (#11 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) and Anthony Kumpen (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS). Both Belgian drivers will definitely aim for their first NASCAR win and to keep the lead in the championship: “Qualifying will be extremely important because being out of the top-5 will make it almost impossible to get a good result, so I will try push like hell to go to for the pole again. I never raced in Brands Hatch but I love the atmosphere of the classic british circuits and the fans. I never raced in Brands Hatch but I love the atmosphere of the classic british circuits and the fans,” said Longin. “Based on how it went in last year, it will be a great event and NASCAR is growing bigger and bigger every day here in Belgium too”.
“I really like how the the championship is going. I know the track pretty well because I raced there a lot in the past and it is also the only circuit in the calendar we already tested with a NASCAR car. I hope we can keep the lead in the standings, but the level of competition is very high and everything will have to be perfect”,continued Kumpen.
Eddie Cheever III (#51 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) earned his first top-5 in his debut in Valencia and will look to improve his third position in the standings and stretch his lead in the Jerome Sarran Trophy, while Valencia’s Saturday Race winner Yann Zimmer (#3 TFT-Moser Vernet Ford Mustang) – also a Jerome Sarran Trophy contender – will want to close the gap from the leaders. The list is not finished and includes Mathias Lauda (#66 DF1 Racing by B66 Chevrolet SS) and his teammate Christophe Bouchut (#77 DF1 Racing by B66 Chevrolet SS), fourth and fifth in the standings, 2013 poleman Frederic Gabillon (#12 Still Racing Chevrolet Camaro), Freddy Nordstrom (#44 Still Racing Chevrolet Camaro) and Borja Garcia (#1 Ford Autolix Competition Ford Mustang). Back will also be 2012 race winner Javier Villa (#4 Ford Autolix Competition Ford Mustang) and multiple podium finisher Romain Thievin (#9 Exotics Racing by Still Ford Mustang).
Same situation in the ELITE 2 division: with Valencia dominator Neal Van Vaerenbergh absent, everybody else will want to take advantage, starting from Marsilio Canuti (#77 DF1 Racing by B66), Maxime Dumarey (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) and Phillip Lietz (#86 TB Renauer Motorsport), but keep a close eye to Wilfried Boucenna (#33 Overdrive Chevrolet SS) and Young Drivers Program rookie Thomas Ferrando (#22 Overdrive Chevrolet Camaro).
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series grid will be even more international, thanks to the addition of the American VGJL Motorsports, founded by Victor Gonzalez Jr. (17 VGJL-Alpinestars Toyota Camry) and Sprint Cup crew chief Joe Lax, Finnish driver Markus Palttala (#46 RCP-Marc VDS Toyota Camry) and Dominican Miguel Martinez Portillo (#4 Ford Autolix Competition Ford Mustang).
If the first edition of the American Speedfest in 2013 was a great success, drawing a huge crowd to the hilly Kent circuit, this time the American-themed event organized by MSV promises to be even bigger and better thanks to car displays – with a special focus on the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang and the 45th anniversary of the Ford GT40’s first win in Le Mans –, rock and country music concerts, monster trucks exhibitions, dragster demos and most of all NASCAR short-track racing.
Trophies: In the ELITE 1 division Eddie Cheever III leads the Jerome Sarran Trophy classification ahead of Freddy Nordstrom and Valencia’s Saturday Race winner Yann Zimmer by respectively eight and nine points, while Guillaume Rousseau (#13 Bull Racing Team Chevrolet Camaro) and Fabrizio Armetta (#31 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) are divided by just 1 point in the Challenger Trophy classification. The two are followed by William Ayer Jr. (#52 Brazil Team Chevrolet SS), who sits 6 points back from the lead. In theELITE 2 division Eric Quintal (#2 TFT-Banco Santander Chevrolet SS) leads the Gentleman Trophy Classification and Leonard Vernet (#3 TFT-Moser Vernet Ford Mustang) is in the lead in the Legend Trophy by 17 points over Jerome Laurin.
Rookies: The American Speedfest will represent a unique opportunity to turn the Rookie Cup classification upside down. With Van Vaerenbergh absent, Philipp Lietz is the best placed driver in the standings, having to make up 20 points in a tight battle with Thomas Ferrando, Ulysse Delsaux (#23 RDV Competition Chevrolet SS), Erika Monforte (88 Euro Kart Racing Chevrolet SS), Denis Dupont (#32 RCP-Marc VDS Toyota Camry) and Francesca Linossi (#66 DF1 Racing by B66 Chevrolet SS). Gianmarco Ercoli (#31 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) will be the new entry in this special classification.
Ladies: Nathalie Maillet (#46 RCP-Marc VDS Toyota Camry) leads the Ladies Cup classification with a 9-points advantage on Erika Monforte. Francesca Linossi is 26 points down. Having raced both in 2012 and 2013, Maillet is the only one with experience at Brands Hatch in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Hometown heroes: 23-year-old Billericay, Essex native Bradley Smith (#17 VGJL Motorsports Toyota Camry) will make his debut in NASCAR in the ELITE 2 division. Included among BRDC’s Rising Stars, Smith is currently competing in the Radical European Masters and finished 10th in the Prototype class in the 2014 Rolex 24 hours of Daytona. Despite being born in Sweden, Freddy Nordstrom, who lives in London and built his career in the UK, considers Brands Hatch his home track. The 25-year-old Still Racing driver is poised to get a good result after finishing in the top-10 in the last two years and on the podium in both races in 2013.
New arrivals: There will be a brand new team on the grid in Brands Hatch: Puerto Rican NASCAR driver Victor Gonzalez Jr. and American Sprint Cup Series crew chief Joe Lax teamed up to found VGJL Motorsports. The team’s #17 Alpinestars Toyota Camry will be driven by team owner Victor Gonzalez Jr. in the ELITE 1 division and by Bradley Smith in the ELITE 2 division. GT driver Markus Palttala will make his debut on the #46 RCP-Marc VDS Toyota Camry, while Rodrigues Cassiano will be at the wheel of the #82 Brazil Team Chevrolet SS for the first time. More newcomers in the ELITE 2 division: Miguel Angel Dasi Perez (#1 Ford Autolix Competition Ford Mustang), Miguel F. Martinez Portillo (#4 Ford Autolix Competition Ford Mustang), David Perrisset (#9 Exotics Racing by Still Ford Mustang) and Paulo Bonifacio (#52 Brazil Team Chevrolet SS).
Returns: The ELITE 1 division will see the return of Javier Villa and Romain Thievin: in 2012 the Spaniard won here in his first NASCAR race, while the Frenchman is still in search of his maiden win despite finishing second in the 2012 championship, just ahead of Villa. Both were on the podium in Brands Hatch in 2012. Back will also be Stéphane Sabates (#12 Still Racing Chevrolet Camaro), David Perisset (#9 Exotics Racing by Still Ford Mustang) and Jerry De Weerdt (#11 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) In the ELITE 2division.
The shortest road course on the calendar: With its 1,929 Kms The Indy Circuit is the shortest road course of the NWES calendar, the only one below the 2 Km mark, a feature that will grant for tight battles for every position. The longest track is the Circuit Bugatti of Le Mans, measuring 4,142 Kms. The difference between the two is 2,213 Kms.
Records: The fastest qualifying lap around the Indy Circuit in a NASCAR Whelen Euro Series car belongs to Frederic Gabillon, who in 2013 posted a 48.390 to catch the pole position for the Saturday Race. On the same day, Ander Vilarino clocked a 49.148 seconds lap which is the current fastest race lap on the track.
The circuit: It was inevitable that Brands Hatch and NASCAR would meet up because in 1950 the circuit consisted of a 1,6-km oval (1 mile). Brands Hatch is south east of London and its length was increased in 1953 to 1,929 km (1.198 miles) with the construction of the Druids Bend section. Due to the nature of the short Indy Circuit, the races provide some of the most intense thrills of the season.
Last time out: Ander Vilarino won his third and fourth race in a row in 2013 at Brands Hatch in the ELITE 1 division. Both times he defeated the Still Racing duo formed by Frederic Gabillon and Freddy Nordstrom. The Frenchman finished second ahead of the Swede in the Saturday Race, while the two switched positions in the Sunday Race. The ELITE 2 races were once again a battle between Josh Burdon and Anthony Gandon: the Australian won by a mere second on Saturday and the Frenchman took advantage of the rival’s mechanical issue to climb the top spot of the podium on Sunday.
Next time out: The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will be back for the third event of the season on July 5-6 at the Tours Speedway for four nail-biting races on the first NASCAR short-track in Europe. The 9-degree-banked half mile track in downtown Tours will host what is considered the Daytona 500 of the official NASCAR championship in Europe.
Story by: NASCAR IMC, Photo Stephane Azemard