The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series event at the Autodromo di Vallelunga, north of the Italian capital Rome, was a real challenge for cars, competitors and crews due to the high temperatures caused by a European heat wave. The gladiators prepared for the four races at the 4.085 kilometer track and found their own ways to cope with the heat and get the best out of them. Temperatures of up to 70 degrees Celsius were measured in the V8 cars, while the team suffered in the heat of almost 40 degrees Celsius in the air. But with all their passion for racing, professional preparation and will to succeed, the EuroNASCAR teams became real heroes during the American Festival of Rome.
The drivers were on the big stage in front of 25,000 NASCAR fans and not a single driver backed down from giving the crowd the best show possible with side-by-side racing and incredible battles. Due to the high temperatures inside the cars, drivers burned their feet on the pedals and wrestled the cars around the track despite being at the limit. Some drivers lost as much as three kilograms at the NASCAR GP Italy. This is just a glimpse of the challenges the drivers faced. But what were the secrets to beating the heat?
"I liked fighting with the other drivers in these conditions," said Bremotion's Tobias Dauenhauer, who "drank a lot of water before the race and had a cool wet towel around his neck before each race started”. Academy / Alex Caffi Motorsport's Vladimiros Tziortzis is still surprised how the engine withstood the high fluid temperatures, while the Cypriot "used the fans normally destined at cooling down the engines to get some fresh air". Hendriks Motorsport’s Gil Linster was one of the drivers who "lost 1.9 kilograms'' during the weekend. The Luxembourger wore a cooling vest and changed his diet to fruit. The addition of salt helped the driver to "keep the water in the body" as he also drank hot tea to adapt to the heat.
Marko Stipp Motorsport's Nick Schneider was on the limit, but the German-Brazilian driver "poured cold water down my suit and on my head before the race. I also cooled off in the Spider-Man pool", brought to the track by Hendriks Motorsport. Speedhouse’s Neo Lambert said: "My feet were burning, the pain was no joke!" So he poured frozen water on his feet to cool them down. "I was drinking five to six liters of water a day and never had to pee, that's crazy!" Local hero and CAAL Racing driver Max Lanza said the NASCAR GP Italy was the "most difficult" race of his racing career. He explained: "I kept a bag of ice in my helmet for the duration of the autograph session on the grid, then stuffed ice cubes into my suit before getting into the car."
"It was the toughest challenge of my life," said CAAL Racing's Alberto Naska, who "took a cold shower in his suit before getting into the car. Returning driver Tuomas Pontinen said: "This is what we drivers are trained for," but the Marko Stipp Motorsport driver from Finland also had to find ways to beat the heat: "I went to our little swimming pool.” Sebastiaan Bleekemolen was unimpressed by the heat: "It was actually okay for me. It was the first time I used a cooling vest. It's really great and you see them in every sport these days.” Marko Stipp's Gordon Barnes won the Club Challenge after three exhausting sessions on Friday: "Cooling down between sessions and hydrating would be important. And as soon as I could, I got out of the race suit - for something that's fireproof, they're still pretty hot," said the Brit.
Being from Reggio Emilia was an advantage for Speedhouse's Arianna Casoli, who "likes the hot weather". "Breathing at the end of sessions and races was sometimes not so easy because the heart rate was higher and the body needed more oxygen," said the Italian. "I think the physical preparation starts before the race: not days, but weeks or months. On the track you have to be aware of your condition and your body's needs," she said. Racingfuel's Alina Loibnegger found another way to cool down: "We also had a pool in front of our pit where I wet my fireproof underwear to put it in the fridge." Giorgio Maggi struggled when he couldn't go full speed on the track: "The air stopped circulating and it felt like a sauna!" The Race Art Technology driver started to prepare by "keeping a good fitness level with some good old cardio on a nice summer day to get used to training in warm conditions".
Michael Bleekemolen is the oldest driver on the grid, but he also faced the heat as a true professional. The Dutchman said: "I put some ice cubes in my race suit and practiced in the heat of a sauna before the event. It wasn't a problem for me, even though I'm 73 years old!” Another CAAL Racing driver who relied on a cold shower before the race was Gianmarco Ercoli, who, like his teammate Naska, won one of the races in Italy. Another driver used to the heat was Max Mason from Australia, who didn't have any major problems in the car: "These temperatures are normal for me". Belgian Sven van Laere also visited saunas to prepare for the event, and at the track the CAAL Racing driver filled his race suit with ice cubes before a race.
But it was not only the drivers who had to outgrow themselves, so did the team members who worked on the cars in the scorching heat. Pontinen's content creator Antti Lahtinen said: "There were challenges, but I do everything to get good content.” He stayed hydrated and looked for shade whenever possible. Marko Stipp's team manager Chris Liemann said: "On the grid it felt like being in a frying pan.” While some found real solutions to combat the heat, PK Carsport race engineer Koen Bevers grabbed a "cold beer" after work and played darts with his teammates in the garage. He said: "It was way too hot, so respect to all the drivers out there!" Bremotion's Frank Quabeck used the fans in the pits to cool down.
Race Art Technology's Team Coordinator Andrea Brianza is used to hard work because he's a hobby mountain trekker. His secret to beating the heat? "Water, water and a gin and tonic after work!" Marko Reimer of Marko Stipp Motorsport said: "There was nothing you could do against the heat at work, so I just drank different drinks, like water, energy drinks and coffee." His colleague Sven Schnabel focused so much on his tasks that he was able to put the heat out of his mind and just function. PK Carsport mechanic Nico Martens said: "It was like running a marathon in a sauna. Our secret is our physio Luc who keeps us well hydrated with a constant supply of cold water with all the essential nutrients and additives. He does this all season long and with great passion!"
Series representatives, media team members, photographers and TV videographers also had a tough time in Italy. "Wearing shoes with thin soles was not a good idea," said NWES reporter Andre Wiegold. "My feet burned when I did the interviews on the grid because of the high asphalt temperatures." Photographers and cameramen spent hours in the sun over the weekend, and used sunscreen, plenty of water, and the will to get the best pictures possible to do their job in Vallelunga. The fans were as strong as the competitors, as 25,000 NASCAR enthusiasts braved the heat on the grandstands and in the paddock!
The Italian crowd made the American Festival of Rome a real success with a unique atmosphere, but the event was also made possible thanks to the marshals who kept the races safe. They were out in the scorching heat all day long for all the NWES races and support series rounds and well deserved to be praised for their work.
The next NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race will take place after the summer break on August 26-27 at the Autodrom Most in the Czech Republic. All qualifying and races will be streamed live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and various television services around the world.