The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is back in Italy for the American Festival of Rome at the 4.085 kilometer long Autodromo di Vallelunga in the north of the country’s capital city. Facing the heat in Qualifying, Gianmarco Ercoli and Paul Jouffreau made it to the top of the standings and edged out their competitors in the battle for the Pole Position. While the CAAL Racing veteran scored the eighth EuroNASCAR PRO Pole Position of his career, the RDV Competition youngster earned the maiden Pole Award of his young EuroNASCAR 2 career. Both drivers were also able to preserve their Hoosier Racing Tire slicks as every driver is only allowed to use one set of sticker tires for Qualifying and both races during the weekend.
In his career, Ercoli won from the pole four times. Jouffreau will lead the EuroNASCAR 2 field to the green flag for the first time, but after scoring three podium finishes, ending up four times inside the top-5 and leading his first laps in the NWES, the Frenchman is eager to take the next step and make a visit to Victory Lane. The Pole Position may be a key factor at the Italian track as six polesetters converted their starting position into a race win in twelve races at Autodromo di Vallelunga so far.
Ercoli only clocked a total of four laps in Q1 to preserve his tires, but a sixth place result in the 15-minute session meant that he only started sixth in line into the crucial 5-minute Superpole. Still, the Free Practice topper clocked a 1:40.543-lap in the decisive session to grab the best starting position for Saturday’s EuroNASCAR PRO Round 5. The local hero from Rome was 0.295 seconds faster than his fellow countryman Vittorio Ghirelli, who admitted a strategic mistake in Superpole right after the session in an interview on the official EuroNASCAR broadcast. Still, the Italian driving the #72 Team Bleekemolen Chevrolet Camaro will have a good spot on the grid for the 18-lap race.
“I’m very happy with the pole position at my home track as it's very important to take the pole here,” said Ercoli, who will start from the pole for the fourth time this year. “The team yesterday did a good job to set up a good car in Qualifying. It’s going to be a difficult race because of the temperatures, but we will be ready for it! The atmosphere here in Vallelunga is incredible, congratulations to the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and the Autodromo di Vallelunga for the job and for the event because it’s important to have a lot of fans here.”
Tobias Dauenhauer surprised with a strong performance on his #99 Bremotion Chevrolet Camaro. The two-time EuroNASCAR 2 runner-up from Germany took third place in the only second race weekend for the new German outfit that is based close to Frankfurt am Main. Dauenhauer was 0.341 seconds slower than Ercoli but edged out Jouffreau, who ended up fourth in Qualifying for his EuroNASCAR PRO debut. Liam Hezemans, who was quickest in Q1 with four laps in, closed not only the top-5 but also the top-3 in the Junior Trophy ranks for drivers aged 25 and under behind Dauenhauer and Jouffreau.
Vladimiros Tziortzis followed in sixth ahead of the Speedhouse duo of Ulysse Delsaux and Lucas Lasserre, while Giorgio Maggi and Anthony Kumpen rounded out the top-10. Marc Goossens missed the Superpole after being kicked out of the top-10 by Kumpen in the closing stages of Q1 and therefore will start from eleventh on the grid. The best Challenger Trophy driver - the special classification for elite amateur drivers in EuroNASCAR PRO - was Riccardo Romagnoli in 13th. He beat returnee Tuomas Pontinen in his #48 Marko Stipp Motorsport Chevrolet, who was also making his EuroNASCAR PRO debut. Another debutant in Hugo Fleury was 24th behind the wheel of the #75 Uber Modern Racing Chevrolet.
Preserving tires will be a key factor in the heat of Italy with air temperatures up to 36 degrees Celsius expected on Saturday and Sunday. Paul Jouffreau clocked his fastest lap - a 1:40.998 - on lap 3 of a total of 6 laps. Alberto Naska was only 0.055 seconds slower than the RDV Competition driver, but the Italian also had to clock two more laps than the Frenchman on pole. After leading his first laps in Brands Hatch, Jouffreau wants to take the ultimate step after joining the EuroNASCAR 2 Championship in 2022 and score his maiden race win.
“Not bad! I’m really happy, but I’m exhausted because I jumped out of the EuroNASCAR PRO Qualifying to do the EuroNASCAR 2 Qualifying. It’s amazing how much the track changed between the two sessions. The car wasn’t the same at all, the track gained a lot more temperature so we couldn't take the turns like we did in EuroNASCAR PRO. The team is just amazing as they gave me a car that turns smoothly everywhere,” comments the 19-year old Frenchman after a fantastic Qualifying session onboard the #3 RDV Competition Ford Mustang.
Championship leader Vladimiros Tziortzis ended up third, 0.313 seconds off the best time. In addition, the Academy / Alex Caffi Motorsport driver from Cyprus clocked a total of eleven laps in Qualifying. The amount of stress that Tziortzis placed on his Hoosier Racing Tire slicks could be crucial ahead of the two demanding 15-lap races in EuroNASCAR’s second division. He edged out Gil Linster in fourth, while Patrick Schober completed the top-5 in a new car that Double V Racing had to build up after the Austrian’s severe crash in Brands Hatch.
2021 EuroNASCAR 2 Champion Martin Doubek followed in sixth ahead of Claudio Cappelli, who topped the Legend Trophy standings for drivers aged 40 and more at the wheel of his #18 Race Art Technology Ford Mustang. His teammate Thomas Toffel earned his best Qualifying result so far in eighth position and therefore took the first place in the Rookie Trophy standings ahead of the special classification’s leader Thomas Dombrowski and reigning Legend Trophy Champion Melvin de Groot. Arianna Casoli topped the Lady Trophy standings in 24th. Problems for Michael Bleekemolen and Jack Davidson, who both stopped their cars during the session, meant they will only start from 20th and 26th respectively.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will be back in action with two exciting races at the fast and tricky Autodromo di Vallelunga. Thousands of Italian fans expect close racing with the “Pure Racing” spirit of European NASCAR racing. All races will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV services from all around the world.