The season opener of the 2023 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season ended with a big bang and it was Lucas Lasserre who won EuroNASCAR PRO Round 2 in a tremendous battle against Martin Doubek. The Speedhouse Racing driver grabbed his first victory since 2018 and gave Speedhouse the team’s second win in EuroNASCAR PRO since its debut in 2017. The Frenchman took advantage from a clash between Gianmarco Ercoli and Liam Hezemans late in the race to take the lead and capture the checkered flag.
The owner, engineer and driver coach of Speedhouse didn’t plan to jump into the #64 Ford Mustang in 2023, but with the cockpit free, the Biarritz resident decided to take the wheel at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain. Lasserre has been involved in the series since its foundation in 2009 and is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid. It took all his cleverness to put the #64 in Victory Lane: the Frenchman took the lead on restart – the second of the race – on lap 17, beating Vladimiros Tziortzis into turn 2 after the Cypriot had kept the lead in turn 1. Lasserre then defended first place and turned the NASCAR GP Spain into a huge party for Speedhouse.
“It’s been a long time for me, but Speedhouse was really fast last year!” said Lasserre, who was both excited and tired in the Victory Lane. “I needed to concentrate on my team manager and team owner role, but then I just competed in this race and I won! A big thanks to all the people who stayed with me this winter, it’s been good times and high spirits at Speedhouse!”
The Frenchman revealed that there’s an additional element that made his victory even more surprising: his race engineer had to miss the event. “My engineer was not here, so I managed to talk to him by phone to set up the car. It’s totally amazing and we’re going to have a big, big, big party this evening!” exclaimed Lasserre.
Martin Doubek ended up second 0.693 seconds behind the race winner. Starting xx on the grid, the Czech pilot of the #7 Hendriks Motorsport Ford carved his way up the order and was attacking Lasserre in the closing stages of the races, but all attempts brought forward by the 2021 EuroNASCAR 2 Champion were fended off.
CAAL Racing’s Marc Goossens rounded out the overall podium in third at the end of a roller coaster race for the experienced Belgian, who was fighting for position inside the top-5 all day long. Vittorio Ghirelli also had his hands on the trophy at the beginning of the last lap, but the Italian was shuffled down the order after a contact with Tziortzis that sent #5 EuroNASCAR FJ in the gravel at turn 1. Tziortzis would rejoin the race and bring home a 13th place finish, while Ghirelli received a post-race penalty that dropped him down to 16th position.
The defining incident of Round 2 happened on lap 14 between Ercoli and Hezemans. On the first restart, with Ercoli leading the race, Hezemans approached the restart zone ahead of the Italian – creating the potential infringement to the NWES rulebook – and then hit the gas too early due to a mistake made on the flag tower. The starter waved the green flag before the cars actually reached the restart zone and therefore Hezemans accelerated. The Dutchman took over the lead, but race control opted for a position swap between the #50 and the #54 to take a decision that was deemed fair for both drivers in consideration of the starting procedure error and Hezemans’ infringement. Once back in second, the driver of the #50 Hendriks Motorsport Ford immediately started to throw attacks against the Italian in first place and then drama struck.
Hezemans got wide in turn 2 on lap 14, having tried to make an overtake for the lead, and then made contact with Ercoli while rejoining the track. The reigning EuroNASCAR 2 Champion had to retire and park his car in the gravel trap of turn 4, while Ercoli was able to continue. Ercoli had been hit hard and his tire disintegrated right at the pit entry. The CAAL Racing driver had to come to the pits, change the tire and was shuffled down the order to 20th place. In the end, Ercoli managed to finish 14th, while Hezemans received a 10-second penalty and three Behavior warning points.
“I’m racing in a professional category with kids. The kids are fast, but they don’t have the strategy. The race was okay and that car is faster than mine. I don’t understand the overtake attempt at that moment. They [kids] race all the time on the PC, but not in real life. When you race on the track, you switch on your head because at the race track, you need to show respect,” said Ercoli after the race, still visibly livid about what had happened.
“I think with Ercoli, it was a bit of my mistake when I was on the outside because I wanted to get back on track. I didn’t have the room, otherwise I would have been pushed into the gravel. Maybe I went back too early and I’m sorry for that,” commented the Dutchman on the collision.
PK Carsport’s Anthony Kumpen finished fourth after a tough race for the two-time Champion who at some point even fell out of the top-10. Still the Belgian recovered and limited damage in his fulltime comeback. Frederic Gabillon finished fifth ahead of Ulysse Delsaux, who topped the Junior Trophy ranks in his #14 Speedhouse Racing Ford Mustang, beating Giorgio Maggi in seventh. Maggi had issues with his car during the race and lost several places, but still the Swiss managed to add another top-10 finish to his tally. Thomas Krasonis rounded out the podium in the special classification for drivers aged 25 and over.
Riccardo Romagnoli not only finished ninth, but also topped the Challenger Trophy classification for bronze and silver drivers in EuroNASCAR PRO. The Italian was joined on the podium by Advait Deodhar and Kenko Miura, the former rounding out the top-10 positions. Provisionally, Lucas Lasserre exits the Spanish round of the championship as the championship leader with 71 points. Doubek is in second with 64 points with the aid of bonus points for most positions gained that he secured in Race 2, while Goossens sits in third with 63 points.
The 2023 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will make its next stop on June 17-18 at Circuit Brands Hatch in the UK. Four action-packed races will highlight the 10th edition of the popular American SpeedFest at the Indy layout of the legendary race track close to London. Qualifying and all races will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV services from all around the world.
RESULTS: EURONASCAR PRO | EURONASCAR 2