Liam Hezemans survives “The Big One” and passes Ghirelli for the win

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series


Hezemans overtakes Ghirelli on lap 7 to take home the winner’s trophy – Ghirelli leaves Spain in the championship lead

The season opening round of the 2024 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season concludes with Liam Hezemans securing a Sunday sweep for Hendriks Motorsport. The Dutchman turned his weekend around after a problematic Saturday race and overtook Vittorio Ghirelli on lap 7 to bring home another winner’s trophy for the #50 Toyota Camry team. It was the Dutchman’s first victory in nearly a year, having also won at the 4.005-kilometer long Circuit Ricardo Tormo when the series visited the Spanish venue back in 2023.

The EuroNASCAR PRO Race 2 had to be restarted following a big incident that involved ten cars. Five drivers – Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, Martin Doubek, Patrick Lemarie, Vladimiros Tziortzis and Fabrizio Armetta – were unable to continue due to the damage sustained on their machines. Five others – Vittorio Ghirelli, Ulysse Delsaux, Marc Goossens, Riccardo Romagnoli, Ryan Vargas – were also involved but they were able to take part in the shortened 17-lap race. All competitors were able to walk away and leave the car on their own power.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Japo Santos

“I thought I was at Talladega for a minute,” recalled Vargas. “The whole field was flying apart. It looked like the Big One and it really was one. I was in the middle of it, had a good start and was in the pack and once they started flying apart I was just ricocheting off from everybody. At the end of the day we look like a Modified car, which is fitting since the series is sponsored by Whelen and they sponsored the Whelen Modified Tour in the United States. I’m glad everyone’s okay, Sebastiaan took a big hit and it was scary to see him go back into the traffic.”

When the race resumed, Ghirelli maintained his lead, but his involvement in the Big One resulted in wishbone damage that made his car challenging to drive. Hezemans was able to put pressure on the Italian and made a move in the first corner on lap 7 to take the lead from the winner of Round 1. The 20-year old Dutchman led the remaining ten laps to win from Ghirelli and Tobias Dauenhauer, who completed the podium in a clean race for the Bremotion driver. Hezemans also secured the win in the Junior Trophy special classification for drivers aged 25 and under.

“Awesome job by the team!” said Hezemans in Victory Lane. “The car was awesome, as we already saw in Gil Linster’s race. We made some adjustments and it turned out to work pretty well. It’s unfortunate for the start, I think it’s just a driver mistake but I’m happy to be in the Victory Lane. Next round is Vallelunga and I hope we can show that we’re just as fast!”

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Nina Weinbrenner

Lucas Lasserre was able to stay away from trouble and finished fourth ahead of fellow veteran Goossens at the line. Race Control later handed the Frenchman a penalty of 10-seconds for a collision with Paul Jouffreau, promoting the Belgian up to fourth. Goossens’ #72 Team Bleekemolen Toyota Camry received a duct tape treatment after the first lap incident. Delsaux had to take the restart from the pits, but the 2018 EuroNASCAR 2 champion completed an excellent comeback and charged his way up to sixth at the end.

Seventh place finisher Thomas Toffel not only took home the top spot in the Challenger Trophy, his consistency in the four races at the Spanish soil also gave him and the #34 crew the overall victory in the new Endurance Teams Championship. Thomas Krasonis came within inches of being involved in the Big One and decided to play it safe on the restart, eventually finishing eighth ahead of Massimiliano Lanza and Dario Caso. The Italians rounded out the top-10 overall positions and the podium in the special classification for elite amateurs.

Reigning champion Gianmarco Ercoli had to make a visit to the pits and was only able to finish in eleventh ahead of Vargas with his “Modified” #30 3F Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Vargas joined Hezemans and Krasonis as the top-3 finishers in Junior Trophy.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Nina Weinbrenner

The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will be returning on 18-19 May for the 2024 edition of the NASCAR GP Italy, held once again at the 4.085 kilometer Autodromo di Vallelunga. Vallelunga has been the host of the Italian round four times since 2020. All qualifying and race sessions will be broadcast live from EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel and various TV services around the world.

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