The battle in EuroNASCAR PRO Final 1 at Circuit Zolder went down to the wire. Paul Jouffreau led the majority of the race from Pole Position, but Speedhouse Racing’s Lucas Lasserre came in clutch in the last few laps. The French veteran found his way up to second and hunted down his younger compatriot. A slight mistake in turn 1 opened Lasserre the door to snatch the win away on the final lap of the race. This victory not only gave Lasserre his second win of the season, but also the provisional lead in the championship heading into Sunday’s decider.
Weather played havoc before the race, forcing a 10-minute delay in the start. Wet weather tires were the way to go and the action was underway after two laps behind the Safety Car. Jouffreau briefly lost his lead to Maggi, but he soon struck back and opened up a comfortable advantage. However, a drying track allowed Lasserre to mount a spectacular comeback. The driver of the #64 Ford Mustang started from third on the grid, dropped some spots in the first lap but found his way back to the lead in the first corner of the last lap. Lasserre will be leading the championship by one point from Vittorio Ghirelli, who was sixth under the checkered flag.
“I told you before the race weekend that I’m a lion,” exclaimed Lasserre in Victory Lane. “I pushed all the time and I stayed focused. Every day, we work very hard on our driving styles and the setups with my crew. They work so hard, but they do it in a good atmosphere at Speedhouse. It’s important to lead the championship, but it’s more important to be first tomorrow. I had a lot of good fun here, it was a pure NASCAR race on a track where drivers make the difference.”
Lasserre’s charge also gave him the fastest lap, meaning that he will be starting first in EuroNASCAR PRO Final 2. Jouffreau might have lost the race, but the 19-year old has once again proved why he’s ready to compete against the series’ top drivers. He ended up second and secured the victory in the Junior Trophy for drivers aged 25 and under, beating Giorgio Maggi who visited the podium for the first time this year. Jouffreau stated he thought there were two laps to go when Lasserre passed him and he would have “defended his position in a different way” if he knew it was the last lap of the race. Junior Trophy’s top-3 was completed by Tobias Dauenhauer, who ran an excellent race and came home fourth.
The mixed weather conditions provided a path for Anthony Kumpen to move his way up the field. The Belgian crowd’s favorite crossed the line in fifth to put himself 18 points behind Lasserre. Ghirelli was followed by Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, Liam Hezemans and Ulysse Delsaux. Gianmarco Ercoli made contact with Lasserre during the Safety Car period that damaged his car. The Italian struggled his way to tenth and now has a five point deficit in the overall standings.
Thomas Toffel was the quickest of the Challenger Trophy contenders in 12th place. The Swiss rookie beat the special classification’s leader Fabrizio Armetta and the returning Yevgen Sokolovskiy. Dario Caso made a brave choice to start on the slicks, but he had to make an unscheduled stop after finding out that the track was too wet for his strategy. The Vict Motorsport driver eventually finished 20th.
Before the last race of the season, the EuroNASCAR PRO standings promise a NASCAR-style playoff finale. Whoever wins the race – Lasserre, Ercoli or Ghirelli – will take home the big trophy. With double points on the line, Kumpen remains the dark horse in the championship battle. The local hero is lurking behind the top-3 to take advantage of any mistake by the top contenders. In the Junior Trophy, Hezemans sits only twelve points ahead of Dauenhauer, while Armetta has a lead of 20 points in the Challenger Trophy from Toffel.
The championship deciding EuroNASCAR PRO Finals Race 2 will be hosted at 13:30 CEST on Sunday, but one more exciting Pure Racing race will take place on Saturday: The EuroNASCAR 2 Finals Race 1, scheduled to be broadcasted live at 16:30 CEST on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV services from all around the world.