The NASCAR GP Belgium could play an important role in the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series championship battle. The regular season finale at Circuit Zolder kicked off on Friday with a total of four free practice sessions at the four kilometer long track – two in each category. While Gianmarco Ercoli topped the combined standings for EuroNASCAR PRO, Alberto Naska was the fastest EuroNASCAR 2 driver by a mere 0.058 seconds ahead of Liam Hezemans.
All drivers will drop their two worst results after the event in the woods of Limburg and therefore it’s crucial for several title contenders to score the maximum of points to keep their championship dream alive for the EuroNASCAR Finals at Automotodrom Grobnik in Croatia on October 29-30. The legendary track has been part of the NWES calendar since 2015 and provided tons of action and memorable moments in the series’ history.
EuroNASCAR PRO: Ercoli eager to strike back
Gianmarco Ercoli is eager to carve his way up the ranks in EuroNASCAR PRO and have a say in the championship battle against his arch enemy Alon Day. The Italian sits in seventh in the overall standings after suffering from setbacks in one of the races at Valencia, Brands Hatch and Vallelunga. Italy’s Sunday race winner topped the standings in Free Practice by clocking a 1:37.229-lap in the second session. The CAAL Racing driver edged EuroNASCAR rookie Liam Hezemans by 0.346 seconds.
Hezemans is pulling double duties again at the wheel of the #50 Hendriks Motorsport Ford Mustang and showed a promising pace at the track close to the border of his home country: the Netherlands. He was also the fastest Junior Trophy driver right ahead of Giorgio Maggi, who’s leading the special classification and is third in the overall standings. The latter was fastest in the first session and therefore belongs among the drivers to keep an eye on at Circuit Zolder.
NWES returnee Anthony Kumpen was fourth at his home track. After an incident in session one, the Belgian lost important track time but the PK Carsport driver had a good run in the afternoon that brought him to fourth place in the combined result. Closing the top-5 was Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, who took his maiden EuroNASCAR PRO victory at Autodrom Most three weeks ago. Local hero Marc Goossens followed in sixth right ahead of Patrick Lemarie, Frederic Gabillon and Nicolo Rocca.
Day ended up eleventh in his first outing with Speedhouse. The Israeli had trouble in the first session due to technical issues on his #40 Speedhouse Ford Mustang. Fabrizio Armetta topped the Challenger Trophy ranks in 16th overall right ahead of Henri Tuomaala and Kenko Miura, who made his comeback as a driver but also as a team boss of his new Team Japan Needs24.
EuroNASCAR 2: Naska sets the bar
After his perfect sweep with two wins in the Czech Republic, Alberto Naska has a comfortable lead in the EuroNASCAR 2 championship standings and Rookie Trophy. But the CAAL Racing driver has no time to relax, as Liam Hezemans is trying to hunt down the Italian in the race for both titles – the overall EuroNASCAR 2 championship and the Rookie Trophy. Despite Naska had his fastest lap time in Final Practice canceled after he passed a competitor under yellow, his time of 1:37.691 in the first Practice session was enough to put himself on top by 0.058 seconds over Hezemans, who inherited the first position in Final Practice.
Another title contender finished in third, only 0.354 seconds off the pace: Vladimiros Tziortzis. The Cypriot finished the two sessions right ahead of the reigning EuroNASCAR 2 Champion Martin Doubek, who still has a shot at defending his title. Gil Linster completed the top-5 with a 0.478 seconds gap on Hezemans. Legend Trophy title contender Melvin de Groot followed in sixth. After missing out on the races at Autodrom Most, the Dutchman will give all his best to reconquer the lead in the special classification for drivers aged 40 and more.
Christian Malcharek ended up in sixth followed by Tuomas Pontinen, Ulysse Delsaux and Leonardo Colavita, who closed the top-10. Legend Trophy leader Yevgen Sokolovskiy finished twelfth right behind his Marko Stipp Motorsport teammate Miguel Gomes. Luli Del Castello topped the Lady Trophy standings ahead of Alina Loibnegger, who struggled with her setup, and Arianna Casoli.
The NASCAR GP Belgium promises exciting races and intense battles on Saturday and Sunday. All races will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube Channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV services from around the world.