The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is attracting some of the most talented young drivers from all over the world and a new wave of talent has taken the ELITE 2 Division by storm: six rookies sit atop the points standings and seven out of nine races in the regular season were won by rookies. Is a future European NASCAR champion among them?
Despite being just 21 years old, points leader Giorgio Maggi comes from GT racing in Germany and thinks Euro NASCAR’s 400 hp V8 monsters with no driving aids suit him perfectly. The Swiss won twice in the regular season at the wheel of the #50 Hendriks Motorsport Mustang.
“The reason I adapted well to the series is my experience, even though NASCAR cars are a complete new world for me and are different from other cars,” said Maggi. “The mindset stays the same: it’s about taking care of your tyres in qualifying and the races, build a good setup and it’s all about development and improvement. I’m thankful to be in a team knowing the car very well. With Loris [Hezemans] I have a strong team mate I can learn from. We also push each other to the limit.”
Maggi is in good company. At 24 years of age, former AutoGP champion Vittorio Ghirelli sits second in the overall championship and in the Rookie Trophy classification. Driving for Racers Motorsport and PK Carsport, the Italian impressed with solid results and scored his first ever NWES win at Raceway Venray in what was his oval racing debut. Ghirelli never finished outside of the top-10 and grabbed six top-5 finishes in the regular season.
“I am happy with my performances so far,” said Ghirelli, who’s returning to competition after a one-year yatus in 2018. “The field is really competitive and the front runners all have good chances of winning. The car is challenging and overdriving it doesn’t help, but I was able to adapt my driving style. I always work a lot going through data and driving techniques in order to keep improving every time I get out on track. I will work even more on my mental and physical form this summer and for sure I will give it all to grab the ELITE 2 Division title.”
Lasse Soerensen has been one of the most exciting surprises in the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series regular season. The Dane missed the season opener at Valencia and since debuting at Franciacorta he won four times. He will enter the playoffs third in points. The 22-yo Dexwet-df1 Racing driver won the French Formula 4 championship and the Danish Thundersport Championship before choosing NWES as the next step for his career.
“The NWES car suits me really well because it is a very technical car to drive: we have no traction control and no ABS. I really like the fact that it is all about man and machine. I think this championship is a really good way to show your potential as a young driver, and this is why we see so many new fast rookies in the championship. It is really fantastic to be a part of it,” said Soerensen.
The top-3 are chased by another trio of rookies, who still have a chance of winning the championship. Myatt Snider, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Rookie of the Year, is fourth in points while Advait Deodhar from India rounds out the top-5 ahead of Andre Castro from the United States. The best NWES veteran is Justin Kunz in seventh place.
“I think I’ve done a pretty decent job considering I haven’t ever seen these tracks before and I haven’t driven these cars until this year,” said Snider. “Especially considering I was in winning contention in the first two races. The world of Euro NASCAR has been interesting thus far. I have enjoyed visiting all of the coolest places in Europe. And the racing has been hard which is good. And I’ve enjoyed my competition, too. All of the rookies are on the top simply because we’re the class of the ELITE 2 Division. And some may go on to be ELITE 1 champions in the future. So it’s cool to get to race against future Euro NASCAR stars!”
The battle for the ELITE 2 Division championship and the Rookie Trophy will heat up in the playoffs with double points on the line. The Semi Finals will take place on September 21-22 at the iconic Hockenheimring in Germany – a track Maggi and Deodhar know very well. The Season Finale will follow on October 5-6 at the legendary Circuit Zolder in Belgium.