The concept of the Drivers Recruitment Program of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series addresses not only young talents. Instead, it supports drivers from completely different backgrounds. Igor Romanov was accepted for the DRP in December and will write history as the first Ukranian to start in the EuroNASCAR. He joined the new team Not Only Motorsport and drive the #89 in the EuroNASCAR Club Challenge. Right now he is starting in the EuroNASCAR Esport Series with the #289.
The Prologue at Daytona was the first race for Romanov on iRacing. “My first sim-racing experience was one month before the start of the ENES. My first practice session on iRacing was only a few hours before the start of the Prologue” Romanov said it an interview with Threewide. “It was harder than I expected. I use a professional rig, so everything feels absolutely realistic. And after a couple of hours behind the wheel with the gloves on my hands, sitting in a racing seat but with monitors instead of a real windshield you can’t tell if it’s real or virtual sport.”
Romanov qualified himself on P50 for the first round of the ENES at Brands Hatch. That meant P17 in the starting grid for his heat. Right after the start of the heat, he was able to go the speed of the drivers in front of him. After an incident he lost speed and eventually had to park his car in the pits. In the Last Chance Qualifier he had to start from P26. After Alessio Bacci lost control of his car and pushed him into the barriers, Romanov had to retire.
Because of his work, he had to skip the second round at Watkins Glen, but he was back for the round at Zandvoort. He had to start from the last position in his heat. Due to the incident after the start, he was able to gain some positions, but he again was involved in a collision. He brought the car back to the pits, where his heat ended. The Last Chance Qualifier did not go as planned either. But in the end end he gained 10 positions and finished the race on P17. “Zandvoort is a really hard track. I’ve only had two 3-hour practice sessions before the race, so I was driving really unstable and not as fast as I wanted to. I tried to concentrate on the pre-qualifying and fortunately I got a place on the grid. I started last in heat 3, but I was driving carefully and after the first corner I was 11th out of 19. Unfortunately after a collision moments later, my car was damaged and became uncontrollable, so I decided to go back to the pits. A similar situation happened during the consolation race, but I decided to stay on track and cross the finish line”, Romanov summarized his race.
For Romanov the races of the ENES are good practice possibilities. “Unfortunately due to the CoVid-19 pandemic all our plans have been postponed, including the pre-season testing sessions. This sim-racing experience is much better than nothing! It was a fantastic idea of the NWES to organize this virtual championship. I’m very thankful for this to the whole NWES organization and personally want to thank especially Jerome Galpin and Gian-Luca Giuglia and also all the other drivers who participate”, the Ukranian said.
Romanov works for the biggest Ukranian TV Channel TRBC Ukraine as director of photography. He just started his career in racing in 2016, after he got accepted by a race school in Kyiv. “I started in the Ukrainian Touring Cup in 2016. The following year I got a long-term deal with the Ukrainian Autospeedway National League, where I still participate”, the sympathetic Ukrainian told Threewide. His decision to apply for the Drivers Recruitment Program was influenced by his racing hero, Bobby Labonte, whom he met in 2018 in Tours. “One of my biggest racing heroes is the legendary Bobby Labonte. I was extremely happy to meet him after the oval race of the NWES in Tours, where I worked as a journalist. I told him about my dream of NASCAR. He answered: ‘Try if you want to, they have really good conditions for that!'” So he send his application to the NWES and was accepted for the DRP in December. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life, because finally my biggest dream started to come true.” For him, the participation in the EuroNASCAR is not only a dream that comes true, but also a possibility to promote the sport he loves so much. “In the last six months since the DRP so many Ukranians learned the meaning of the word NASCAR. I’m trying to do a big promotion here and invite local motorsport fans to follow our series and my first steps in the EuroNASCAR. The Ukraine is a big country, but we have only one racing circuit here. The Chayka Ring is very old and unsafe, so I also want to show another way to our drivers: high-class circuits and the most promising racing series in Europe. You don’t need to have an extremely high budget, you only need to have a dream.”
Igor Romanov participated in the second leg of the DRP, together with Fabio Spatafora and Davide Dallara, the other two drivers of the Not Only Motorsport. Spatafora introduced him to the team and prepared the way for Romanov to join the team. “I’m really happy to make the deal with the Italian team “Not Only Motorsport”. This is my debut season in the EuroNASCAR, but I already feel very comfortable with my teammates and can’t wait to meet them on the real track again!”
The support of his team and his sponsors is very important for him, but the support of his family to follow his dreams means a lot to him. “I’m very thankful for the great support of my team Not Only Motorsport and my partners Chernobyl Tour and Top Level Motorsport. But I also want to thank my lovely family: My wife Alyona and my son Mark, who support me everywhere I’m going.”
In his first season in the EuroNASCAR his main goal is quite obvious. “My dream is at another level, so I’ll try to do everything possible to get a good result for my team and my country during this year in the Club Challenge of the EuroNASCAR.” As long as the start of the season is still postponed, he is extremely motivated to improve his skills in the ENES. “Unfortunately it’s not possible for me to practice on simulator as much as I want to, but I’m working really hard to become faster and faster. Every little step is really important for me. The most important thing for me is to gain experience. Every day, every practice session, is a big lesson for me. So this season, either virtual or real, is not about points or places, but about experience. If you ask me, how to describe my first steps in EuroNASCAR, I’ll answer: This is the start of something beautiful, because my dream is up to another level. And I’ll try to do my best during the next virtual or real races.”
That next race of the ENES will take place on 06/02/2020 at the Road Course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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