Friday, Dec 08

Italy leads: Ghirelli and Naska top Free Practice at Brands Hatch

Friday, Jun 16 580
Italy leads: Ghirelli and Naska top Free Practice at Brands Hatch NWES Photo

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is back in town this week as the series makes its return to the United Kingdom’s Brands Hatch. The action began with Free Practice and after four exciting sessions, Italian drivers Vittorio Ghirelli and Alberto Naska finished the day on the top of the combined timesheets in EuroNASCAR PRO and EuroNASCAR 2 respectively. Both drivers are eager to score their first victories of the year in the United Kingdom after encountering some adversities in the opening round at Valencia.

The 1.938-kilometer Indy Circuit is hosting the tenth edition of the hugely popular American SpeedFest. Ever since it was inaugurated in 2013, the event has grown in stature from year to year, turning it into arguably the most popular event in the NWES calendar. With plenty of entertainment options such as the four EuroNASCAR races on Saturday and Sunday, the NASCAR Garage 56 display and many more attractions in the fan zone, the American SpeedFest promises to deliver plenty of memorable moments once more.

EuroNASCAR PRO: Vittorio Ghirelli leads a Team Bleekemolen 1-2 

2020 EuroNASCAR 2 champion Vittorio Ghirelli made his debut for Team Bleekemolen in Spain and created a strong impression on his first weekend with the Dutch team. The 29-year old driver continued to be in form on the opening day of the American SpeedFest after he led both Free Practice sessions in EuroNASCAR PRO. Ghirelli led the first 30-minute session with a time of 49.134 before he found a few tenths in the final session to solidify his lead, ultimately finishing the day with a time of 48.656 seconds.

Team Bleekemolen one-upped their lead with a 1-2 finish as Sebastiaan Bleekemolen ended the day in second position, just 0.115 seconds behind Ghirelli. Valencia race winner Liam Hezemans led the Junior Trophy contenders with a third place overall finish. Hezemans finished ahead of Gianmarco Ercoli, whom he made contact with in the season opening round. Tobias Dauenhauer finished second in the Junior Trophy and completed the overall top-5 in his first appearance since 2022, racing the #99 Chevrolet Camaro for the debuting Bremotion team.

Veteran drivers Anthony Kumpen and Marc Goossens set the exact same time in the second session, allowing them to finish in joint sixth place. Former American SpeedFest race winner Frederic Gabillon was eighth ahead of Fabrizio Armetta, who led the Challenger Trophy in ninth place. Martin Doubek closed out the top-10 finishers ahead of Giorgio Maggi, who completed the top-3 in the Junior Trophy. 

Championship leader Lucas Lasserre will have a lot of work to do after finishing twelfth. Another driver with homework to sort out is Vladimiros Tziortzis, who is only 19th after technical issues prevented the Cypriot from setting a time in the final session. Among the drivers who beat the Valencia pole sitter in the timesheets are Max Lanza and Riccardo Romagnoli, who made it an Italian sweep in the Challenger Trophy top-3 positions.

EuroNASCAR 2: Alberto Naska narrowly beats Doubek

Leading EuroNASCAR 2 title contender Alberto Naska scored his first victory in the unpredictable division on the last edition of the American SpeedFest, capitalizing on an Overtime to seal his visit to the Victory Lane. One year later, Naska continued to be one of the drivers to beat in the division after he narrowly defeated the 2021 EuroNASCAR 2 champion Martin Doubek by two hundredths of a second to earn the top spot in the Free Practice session with a time of 48.938.

Vladimiros Tziortzis enjoyed better fortunes in the EuroNASCAR 2 division, finishing third overall after leading the first 30-minute session that was held in the afternoon. Gil Linster trailed the EuroNASCAR 2 championship leader in fourth position and just like his teammate Doubek, Linster lost out by two hundredths of a second. RDV Competition’s Paul Jouffreau completed the top-5 ahead of Claudio Remigio Cappelli, who led the Legend Trophy classification for drivers aged 40 and above.

Melvin de Groot, who skipped the previous round in Valencia, announced his return with a solid seventh place finish in the combined times. He and Roberto Benedetti, who finished eighth overall, completed the podium in the Legend Trophy ahead of trophy leader Riccardo Romagnoli. Thomas Toffel was the best of the Rookie Trophy contenders in tenth position, finishing in front of Jack Davidson and Thomas Dombrowski who ended the day in 11th and 14th respectively. Home crowd hero and two-time Club Challenge champion Gordon Barnes ended his first day as an EuroNASCAR 2 driver in 21st position.

Davidson was involved in a violent accident in EuroNASCAR 2 Free Practice 2 when the Scotsman lost control over the #48 Marko Stipp Motorsport Chevrolet Camaro in the infamous Paddock Hill Bend. “Honestly I don’t know what happened. I came in at the brake and I don’t know if I jabbed the brake too hard. I got sideways, thought I caught it but then I must have caught some of the marbles on the outside. That spun me around and I ended up in the barrier. It’s really unfortunate.” 

The action at the American SpeedFest will continue on Saturday with the Qualifying session and the first races of the weekend for EuroNASCAR PRO and EuroNASCAR 2. All qualifying sessions and races from Brands Hatch will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv, and on many TV services around the world.

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