The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is back at Autodrom Most and the EuroNASCAR PRO drivers opened the fourth edition of the NASCAR GP Czech Republic. A dramatic turn of events caused several top drivers to tumble down the order early due to a crash in the very first turn of the 17-lap race. In the end, it was Vittorio Ghirelli who took advantage of the carnage to bring home a strong win in front of tens of thousands of racing enthusiasts at the grandstands – the second victory of the season for the Italian Team Bleekemolen driver in the #72 Toyota Camry.
Polesitter Ghirelli survived the turn 1 pile-up at the start and kept the lead. The Italian built a comfortable margin on his chasers and cruised to his second win of the season. The Fasano native had already struck back in Italy with a phenomenal home race victory and with another 40 points added to his tally in the Czech Republic he further closed the gap on championship leader Gianmarco Ercoli, who suffered from damage received in the first turn accident. Ghirelli is now only ten points down to his fellow countryman in first place.
“I had a fantastic start and quickly got a two second advantage. We had a good strategy and my car was very fast in the first laps. Then I had a good gap, so I managed that and saved the tires but it got very tricky because there was debris on the track and oil in the last corner. I had two or three moments where I said ‘Oh my God, that was close!’ but it was important to take this victory. It’s been a very good weekend so far and tomorrow we’re starting from pole, so let’s do it again!” said the driver from Fasano after his back-to-back victory.
Experience is key in racing and therefore Anthony Kumpen had an advantage when the 21-car field headed into turn 1. The Belgian focused on the polesetter’s braking lights to find the right timing to dive into the infamous chicane at Autodrom Most. The PK Carsport team manager and driver got pushed by Liam Hezemans in his #50 Hendriks Motorsport Toyota Camry and fell back to seventh place. Despite the incident, the two-time NWES Champion successfully climbed back to second place at the end of 17 thrilling laps, bringing home his second podium finish of the season.
Vladimiros Tziortzis ended up third and took the win in the Junior Trophy for drivers aged 25 and under. The Cypriot, who received the visit of the Cypriot ambassador in the Czech Republic beat championship contender Lucas Lasserre in his #64 Speedhouse Ford Mustang. Lasserre also closed the gap on Ercoli with a strong top-5 result by edging out local hero Martin Doubek, who came from eleventh on the grid after having mechanical issues in Qualifying.
Ulysse Delsaux was also caught up in the accident at the beginning of the race, but the Speedhouse driver from France made a strong comeback to finish the race in sixth overall and second in the Junior Trophy ranks. He was followed by Marko Stipp Motorsport’s Thomas Krasonis, who had an intense duel with Thomas Toffel for several laps. The Greek rounded out the Junior Trophy top-3, while the Swiss behind him took first place in the Challenger Trophy for elite amateur drivers in EuroNASCAR PRO.
Ricardo Romagnoli ended up ninth to grab second in the Challenger Trophy ranks, while Jack Davidson rounded out the top-10 after a short visit to one of the gravel traps while battling with the Italian in front of him. Dario Caso completed the Challenger Trophy podium in eleventh place, while the leader of the special classification, Fabrizio Armetta had issues during the race and only finished in 17th position, but his points advantage was big enough to defend his lead in the Challenger Trophy.
Among the drivers who were shuffled down the order was Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, who tried to take the lead from his teammate Ghirelli by going three-wide between the Italian and Paul Jouffreau, who was also caught in the incident in the first corner. Tobias Dauenhauer and championship leader Gianmarco Ercoli also suffered damage in the incident, something that may have implications for the 2023 NWES championship battle. Hezemans was penalized for the first-lap incident by race control and had to serve a stop-and-go penalty.
In the overall classification, Ercoli defended the EuroNASCAR PRO lead but Lucas Lasserre closed in by finishing in a strong fourth place. The top drivers are only separated by one point after EuroNASCAR PRO Round 7 that ignited a thrilling championship battle among Ercoli, Lasserre and Ghirelli. Kumpen is only twelve points behind the CAAL Racing driver and could therefore also join the battle for a chance to grab his third NWES Championship Ring.
While the EuroNASCAR PRO drivers will return to action on Sunday at 13:55 CEST, the EuroNASCAR 2 armada will hit the track on Saturday at 17:00 CEST for their Round 7 of the season. All races will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV services from all around the world.