Liam Hezemans gained massive ground on Alberto Naska in the 2022 EuroNASCAR 2 championship battle. The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series rookie cruised to his third win of the season as the race finished under full course yellow conditions. With another victory on his tally, the Dutchman closed the gap on championship leader Naska, setting the scene for an epic battle for the title in the division dedicated to young and gentlemen drivers.
The Hendriks Motorsport driver had to be patient in the early stages of the race because Naska was battling with pole setter Gil Linster for the lead. The Italian got past the Luxembourgish on lap 2, but shortly after that he suffered from a gearbox issue that forced him to come down to the pits. Hezemans took the lead from Linster on lap 5 of the race on the start-finish straight and just seconds later, the caution came out due to a crash involving Martin Doubek and Vladimiros Tziortzis in turn 3.
While the reigning EuroNASCAR 2 Champion and the Cypriot took a big blow to their championship hopes, Hezemans survived another restart and defended his lead from the fast-charging Linster. On lap 11, Matthias Hauer, Miguel Gomes, Yevgen Sokolovskiy Kasparas Vingillis and Christoph Lenz were involved in another crash, forcing race control to deploy the safety car once again.
Hezemans controlled the lead on the single-file Overtime restart, but shortly after Christian Malcharek got sideways in turn 1. Paul Jouffreau had no way to dodge and hit the #11 Chevrolet, going airborne and causing the race to finish under full course yellow. Several other drivers got caught in the incident. Hezemans at the front captured the checkered flag unrivaled ahead of Gil Linster and 2018 EuroNASCAR 2 Champion Ulysse Delsaux. The Dutchman also took the win in the Rookie Trophy ranks.
“It was a really eventful race, it’s so unfortunate to finish under full course yellow but you had to be the first one to take it. It was an awesome job by the team, the car was really awesome and also congrats to Gil! It was really unfortunate also for Alberto because I saw something was wrong with his car, so really unfortunate for him but I’m so happy to be back after Most! We took the points back and I’m happy!” said Hezemans in the post-race interview.
Championship leader Naska went back on the track late in the race after the team quickly changed the gearbox on his #88 CAAL Racing Chevrolet in less than 15 minutes. The Italian was trying to clock a fast lap to secure a decent starting position for Sunday’s EuroNASCAR 2 Round 10, but the cautions weren’t in his favor. While Hezemans will start from Pole Position, Naska will be 17th on the grid on Sunday.
Melvin de Groot took the win in the Legend Trophy classification for drivers aged 40 and more in fourth, while Tuomas Pontinen closed the top-5 as he also finished second in the Rookie Trophy. A solid run in his #47 Chevrolet Camaro brought Leonardo Colavita to sixth place and he took home third in the Rookie Trophy. He was followed by Claudio Cappelli, who was the second best Legend Trophy driver of an eventful EuroNASCAR 2 race. Yevgen Sokolovskiy rounded out the special classification’s podium in eighth.
Michael Bleekemolen finished ninth, while Luli Del Castello won the race in the Lady Trophy after scoring her second top-10 result of the season. She edged Alina Loibnegger, who was eleventh under the checkered flag. Arianna Casoli finished 13th right behind her Speedhouse teammate Eric Quintal while Jouffreau somehow kept his car going to finish on the lead lap in 14th. With one race to go in the regular season, Hezemans has a unique opportunity to get closer to Naska, who will for sure lead the overall standings when EuroNASCAR will head to Automotodrom Grobnik on October 29-30.
The action at the NASCAR GP Belgium will continue on Sunday with two more races coming up – one in each championship. All races are broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and plenty of TV services from around the world.