Vittorio Ghirelli rounded out another spectacular NASCAR Whelen Euro Series event at the 4.085 kilometer long Autodromo di Vallelunga with a dominant win in EuroNASCAR PRO. The Italian broke the curse and scored his second career win in NWES’ premier championship. After dealing with bad luck in Valencia and finishing runner-up in Brands Hatch, the Fasano native dominated Round 6 of the season by taking the lead at the start and conducting all 18 laps in the scorching heat, with air temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius.
Ghirelli is known for his meticulous fitness training as the 29-year-old even jogs around race tracks during his track walk to be in the best possible shape. With temperatures up to 70 degrees Celsius inside the car, it was a big challenge for a high performance athlete like Ghirelli but with all his experience as well as physical and mental fitness, the driver of the #72 Toyota Camry was able to beat Saturday’s race winner Gianmarco Ercoli in a thrilling closing race of the NASCAR GP Italy. With his first win of the season, Ghirelli closed the gap on Ercoli, who’s leading the championship, to 28 points. Ghirelli is now fourth in the standings ahead of the next event at Autodrom Most.
“It was a fantastic race!” said Ghirelli in Victory Lane after scoring his first win of 2023. “I managed to get first position on the outside of turn two, which was a bit on the edge. Then I kept the pace up and I controlled the #54 as I knew he was very fast. Huge thanks go to my sponsors, my family and fans who all came here to support me in this NASCAR GP at Vallelunga. And a huge thank you to the Bleekemolen family for the fantastic car they gave me. This one is for the team for sure!”
Ghirelli’s teammate Sebastiaan Bleekemolen wasn’t able to take the start after his car was heavily damaged in a collision during the EuroNASCAR 2 race in the morning, but Ghirelli made sure to congratulate Bleekemolen for providing him with the car to beat on Round 6. “This victory is for him, he’s giving me a fantastic car and we’re all doing a great job! I think the win was fully deserved and in the last few laps I was just controlling the tires and not trying to make mistakes,” explained the Italian driver, who started his racing career at Vallelunga.
After celebrating with the tifosi on Saturday, Ercoli had to see his fellow countryman managing his lead, but still the CAAL Racing driver on the #54 Chevrolet Camaro took home important points on the path to conquer his maiden EuroNASCAR PRO title. The Rome native battled down fresh EuroNASCAR 2 race winner Paul Jouffreau for second and therefore defended his lead in the overall standings with 212 points on his tally. Valencia race winner Lucas Lasserre collected big points in third and therefore the French Speedhouse owner-driver sits in second in the overall standings, just 12 points behind Ercoli.
Winning the Junior Trophy was Vladimiros Tziortzis in the #5 Academy / Alex Caffi Motorsport car in fourth overall. The Cypriot was joined by Jouffreau on the Junior Trophy podium. The Frenchman initially crossed the finish line in third but was penalized after the race for a contact with Lasserre in the early stages of the race. The 10-second penalty dropped Jouffreau down to fifth. Anthony Kumpen limited damage in sixth as the Belgian PK Carsport driver and team manager wasn’t able to fully get the grips of the challenging track. The two-time champion sits third in the overall standings, 25 points adrift of the leader.
Speedhouse’s Ulysse Delsaux completed the Junior Trophy podium in seventh overall. The Frenchman wants to seize his last chance of winning the special classification for young drivers in EuroNASCAR PRO and he’s taken the right step forward to achieve it by taking over the overall lead of the Trophy. Marko Stipp Motorsport’s Tuomas Pontinen was solid in his NWES comeback and scored a second top-10 finish in his EuroNASCAR PRO debut by finishing eighth on Sunday. The Finn was followed by Marc Goossens and Tobias Dauenhauer, who rounded out the top-10.
CAAL Racing’s Max Lanza had a busy home race organizing events for his sponsors and fans at the track, but he was rewarded with a Challenger Trophy win as the local hero from Rome ended up 13th in the overall standings of the race. The Italian edged out Simone Laureti and Yannick Panagiotis in the special classification for elite amateur drivers in EuroNASCAR PRO. Dario Caso was disqualified after he retaliated for a contact with Fabrizio Armetta. The two collided and caused severe damage to both cars on the opening lap, but the Italians were both initially able to continue. A few laps later, race control disqualified the Vict Motorsport driver from the race for intentionally wrecking Armetta out of the race.
The 2023 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will be back in action on August 26-27 for the NASCAR GP Czech Republic at the demanding Autodrom Most. Qualifying and all races will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV channels from around the world. The extended highlights from Italy with more behind the scenes and interviews will be available on Thursday on YouTube and also on TV in many countries in their native languages.