A great opportunity was presented to the drivers of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series when NASCAR announced the return of eNASCAR iRacing International Invite. Drivers from NASCAR’s three national series and international championships tackled the one-day, doubleheader competition that awarded a prize pool of 5,000 US dollars to the winners. Reigning EuroNASCAR 2 Champion Paul Jouffreau, EuroNASCAR 2 top-3 finisher Gil Linster and top EuroNASCAR PRO contenders Ulysse Delsaux and Giorgio Maggi were invited to the event, giving them a chance to show their speed to both fellow drivers and fans alike.
The eNASCAR iRacing International Invite consists of two races in one night: One at the Los Angeles Coliseum and one at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, the home of NASCAR GP UK. The venue of NASCAR’s Busch Clash saw three 12-lap heat races held to determine the 18 drivers that will advance to the 40-lap Feature race. At Brands Hatch, an 8-lap Sprint race was held to determine the grid for the 16-lap Feature race. The latter featured an added caveat: Top-8 finishers from the Sprint had their positions inverted, adding a touch of unpredictability to the mix.
Action in the Coliseum was intense, as expected from the 0.25-mile long short track. Despite their relative lack of experience in the ovals, Paul Jouffreau and Giorgio Maggi mastered the short track in Qualifying and therefore earned pole position for their respective heat race. Jouffreau dominated his heat while Maggi had an early collision that dropped him to third. Ulysse Delsaux beat NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. to advance to the Feature race, but Gil Linster wasn’t so lucky and had to watch the 40-lap race from the sidelines.
NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Anthony Alfredo was victorious in the Feature race, surviving three caution periods and an Overtime finish. 3F Racing’s Ryan Vargas, who raced the Pure Racing EuroNASCAR cars in Germany and Belgium, finished second ahead of NASCAR Brasil’s Arthur Gama. Maggi crossed the line in seventh as the highest finishing EuroNASCAR competitor. Delsaux closed out the top-10 while incidents relegated Jouffreau to 12th despite him leading the first few laps.
Jeff Giassi from the NASCAR Brasil Sprint Race won the Sprint race at Brands Hatch, but he had to start from eighth in the Feature race. There were plenty of battles throughout the field, including the battle for the final inverted spot between Vargas and Linster. In the end, Vargas edged out the Luxembourgish to claim eighth place and Feature race pole position. Paul Jouffreau recovered thirteen places to finish the Sprint in eleventh, having qualified the #3 RDV Competition Ford Mustang in 24th position.
Jouffreau once again showed incredible pace in the Feature and ran as high as second before incidents thwarted his chances. The 16-lap race was won by Giassi, who took the lead from Alfredo at the Paddock Hill bend with four laps to go. Alfredo was declared as the winner of the International Invite with Giassi and NASCAR Mexico Series’ Alex de Alba rounding out the top-3. Delsaux ended the day as the highest finishing EuroNASCAR driver in eighth, edging out Maggi by two points while three more points separated the Swiss driver from Jouffreau.
“It was a lot of fun, always happy to be part of it,” said Maggi on the broadcast. “The Xfinity cars were quite different to the cars we usually ran in EuroNASCAR. I needed some adjustments to my driving style, but it helps that both races were done with the same car. I feel really blessed with the opportunity, usually you just see them on TV and never see them in person as they’re quite far apart from Europe, so it was really nice to race them on the track.”
“I practiced a lot for those two races and I put a lot of energy in it,” explained Jouffreau. “During the event I managed to score the Pole Position at the LA Coliseum, and I was really proud of it because oval races were my biggest weakness. I won the first heat so that meant I started first for the main race. I took the lead and then a lapped guy braked after the apex that made me spin, which was really frustrating. I started a comeback but I had a bump that put me in the wall on the last lap.”
“At Brands Hatch I made a big mistake, as I didn’t have a valid quali lap due to off-tracks. So I started from 24th and made a good comeback in the Sprint race. Then in the main race, I fought with the winner of the sprint race but I got bumped off the track. I then started a new comeback and I was in the fight for the lead with two laps to go, but my opponent put me out of the track and I finished eleventh. We had the pace to win at the two tracks but racing incidents and faults from my side were the reason I didn’t make it happen. The event was really great, so thanks to iRacing and NASCAR for hosting it.”
The 2024 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season will begin on 13-14 April with the NASCAR GP Spain at Valencia’s Circuit Ricardo Tormo. Brands Hatch will be featured as the host of NASCAR GP UK for the eleventh consecutive season and promises to bring Pure Racing to the fans with exciting action both on and off the track.