First qualifying sweep: Paul Jouffreau grabs both Pole Positions

Prior to this season, no driver had managed to secure Pole Positions in both NASCAR Whelen Euro Series championships on the same weekend. Now, Paul Jouffreau becomes just the second driver to achieve that feat with his stunning performance in the Qualifying session for the EuroNASCAR Finals. A quickly drying Circuit Zolder made things tricky for the competitors, but the RDV Competition driver was unfazed by the added challenge and mastered the 4.010 kilometer long circuit to claim Pole Award in both divisions. With the Frenchman determined to win the EuroNASCAR 2 championship, this result will give him an advantage heading to the important double points races.

EuroNASCAR PRO

Qualifying for the EuroNASCAR PRO drivers began on a track that was still considerably wet, but the sun shining in Belgium meant that there was a chance for the asphalt to dry enough for the slick Hoosier tires to work in the end. When the green flag waved, half of the grid opted for a conservative choice and ran the wet tires while others gambled with the slicks. The drivers that chose the wets had an early advantage, but the track dried up fast enough for the slick runners to gain an upper hand in the end.

One driver who rolled the dice was Paul Jouffreau and he was flying in both divisions. After setting a lap time 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else in EuroNASCAR PRO Qualifying, in Superpole the driver of the #3 Ford Mustang clocked a lap in 1:39.080 to claim his second career Pole Position. Jouffreau had previously secured the first spot on the grid in Italy, but this was his first EuroNASCAR PRO Qualifying Pole Award in his impressive young career. He also topped the Junior Trophy classification for drivers aged 25 and under.

The mixed weather conditions were a blessing for Giorgio Maggi. The Swiss driver got to grips quickly and secured his first front row start of the year. He edged out Lucas Lasserre and Gianmarco Ercoli, both are expected to have a fierce race from the second row of the grid. Another main championship contender in Vittorio Ghirelli rounded out the top-5 ahead of Vladimiros Tziortzis, who closed the top-3 positions in the Junior Trophy.

Tobias Dauenhauer was seventh despite clipping the tire stack at the Kleine chicane. Martin Doubek and Dario Caso completed the Superpole results ahead of Marc Goossens. Caso suffered a mechanical issue late in the shootout, but he still was the fastest of the Challenger Trophy contenders thanks to his superb run in before stopping the car on the grass.

Anthony Kumpen was flying on the wet tires in the early stages, but with the track quickly drying he made the decision to switch to the slicks. Unfortunately, he made his decision a split second too late and was unable to get a second flying lap in, therefore he will be starting from eleventh. Ryan Vargas also rued his tire choice at the end and dropped down from seventh to 15th in the dying minutes of Qualifying. The American finished ahead of Thomas Toffel and Fabrizio Armetta, who completed the top-3 in the special classification for elite amateur drivers.

EuroNASCAR 2

With the track continuing to dry up, the drivers in EuroNASCAR 2 knew that slicks would be the right decision for their 20-minute long Qualifying session. Yet track evolution meant that there were plenty of changes for the provisional Pole Position. Drivers such as Melvin de Groot, Claudio Cappelli and Alberto Naska found their way to the top at some points in Qualifying, but in the end a last lap charge for Paul Jouffreau proved to be the decisive factor. With a lap time of 1:38.078, the RDV Competition driver will start the first EuroNASCAR Finals race leading the grid to the green flag.

“The setup of the car was perfect when the track was half wet, so I had a lot of confidence. It was more tricky to get the pole in EuroNASCAR 2 because everyone was so fast,” said the 19-year old youngster after the sessions. “I got two Pole Positions and it gave me a good position for the races. Ten percent of the job is done, 40 percent is going to be done in the first EuroNASCAR 2 race and 50 percent will be done tomorrow! We want to win the championship, therefore I need to stay calm.”

Qualifying for EuroNASCAR 2 followed a pattern similar to EuroNASCAR PRO’s own session as the driver of the #18 Race Art Technology Ford Mustang also found his way to second on the grid: Cappelli. The noted wet weather expert felt at home in the mixed conditions and earned his first front row start of the year with only 0.125 seconds separating the Italian from his first career Pole Position. Cappelli, the fastest Legend Trophy driver, will start ahead of title contenders Alberto Naska and Gil Linster.

Thomas Dombrowski set the benchmark in Rookie Trophy with a fifth place result, but a penalty for a non-conform fuel sample demoted him to eighth on the grid. De Groot was ultimately fifth overall and the second fastest in Legend Trophy. Championship leader Vladimiros Tziortzis ended up only sixth ahead of Patrick Schober, who suffered a late issue and had to stop his car on the back straight. Thomas Toffel and Fabrizio Armetta rounded out the top-10, second in Rookie Trophy and third in Legend Trophy respectively.

Jack Davidson, who hadn’t had luck with his timing and found himself stuck in traffic several times, completed the top-3 in the special classification for debuting drivers while Arianna Casoli topped the Lady Trophy rankings. Sven van Laere had a scary accident in his final flying lap attempt, damaging both ends of his #56 CAAL Racing Chevrolet and nearly collected Schober’s stricken Ford Mustang. The Belgian was able to exit the car on his own power.

The action from EuroNASCAR Finals will continue with the first double points races of the weekend. EuroNASCAR PRO’s broadcast will start at 13:25 CEST while the EuroNASCAR 2 car will take to the track at 16:30 CEST. All races will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV services from all around the world.

NWES PR