Soerensen, Rocca and Jochimsen let the Austrians celebrate – Kunz and Castro had bad luck
Last weekend, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES) started the 2020 season at the Autodromo di Vallelunga in Rome, Italy. It was a solid season opener for DF1 Racing with 2 top 5 and 5 top 10 results across both classes of the official European NASCAR series. Especially EuroNASCAR 2 champion Lasse Soerensen, Nicolo Rocca and Andreas Jochimsen showed strong performances.
Soerensen missed the qualifying on Sunday and had to fight his way back to the top from 20th place at the wheel of the #66 Chevrolet Camaro. The current EN2 champion managed this with flying colors: After 18 exciting laps and many passes, the Dane finally crossed the finish line in sixth place. He also burnt the fastest race lap into the asphalt, which earned him the pole position for the second race.
Although Soerensen only finished fifth in the second race after an intense fight for victory, there was every reason to celebrate at DF1 Racing, as the Dane proved that he can keep up with the NWES elite. In another nerve-racking race, the 23-year-old duelled with the EuroNASCAR top drivers Gianmarco Ercoli, Jacques Villeneuve, Lucas Lasserre and Alon Day.
In addition, the racing driver from Aalborg twice finished second in the Junior Trophy for drivers aged 25 or less. After the first two rounds, the exceptionally talented DF1 Tiger is in third place overall behind Loris Hezemans and Alon Day and leads the Junior Trophy standings.
“In the first race we did the impossible”, said Sörensen. “I drove from the very back of the field to sixth place and made some of the best passes of my career. I also managed to set the fastest race lap. In the second race, the plan was to open the gap on the driver in second place right at the start. Unfortunately the jump start by Gianmarco was only recognized by the race control after the race, which destroyed our strategy. In the battle for first place, the engine, brakes and tires overheated, so I dropped back to fifth place. I would like to thank the whole DF1 Racing Team, who never gave up and gave everything.”
NWES veteran Rocca also showed what he is made of on his home track. The Italian convinced with two solid runs in the EuroNASCAR PRO championship and secured important points for the overall standings. In both races the 26-year-old finished in a strong eighth place. In the overall standings, he therefore lies in seventh place after the season opener, only 13 points behind the leader.
“For me it was a learning weekend, because I raced with a new car and a new team,” said Rocca. “Without much testing, it’s always difficult. The pace in the first race was good, unfortunately I got a penalty at the start. The second race was a difficult one for me, but I am sure that we are heading in the right direction. The goal in Zolder is to improve the setup and my performance. I think that we can achieve great results with this awesome team.”
In the EuroNASCAR 2 championship, Andreas Jochimsen immediately drew attention to himself by ending up second in qualifying. While the Dane was not rewarded in the first race after a contact with Dylan Derdaele, he showcased his potential in the second race. At his NWES debut, the rookie showed a strong performance and secured fifth place in the race and second place in the Rookie Trophy.
“In the second race I started from tenth place, so it wasn’t easy to reach a place on the podium,” said Jochimsen. “To finish fifth directly behind the third and fourth was the maximum. I enjoyed the race and had some great duels with the other drivers. It was a pity that we had to retire being in third place in the first race, but that’s racing. The whole team did a great job and I am very grateful for that.”
For Justin Kunz and Andre Castro the first race weekend was a tough one. Both the German and the US American, who shone as co-commentator in the NWES live stream on Sunday, struggled with problems. Castro, who had already scored 40 points in the team championship earlier in the year by winning the EuroNASCAR Esports Series on iRacing, was the victim of accidents through no fault of his own, while Kunz was unable to develop his potential due to external difficulties. Both want to give their best at Circuit Zolder to be able to attack again at the top.
DF1-Racing Motorsport Director Norbert Walchhofer said: “The first race weekend was a mix of ups and little downs, but in the end we were satisfied. As hoped and expected, all DF1 Tigers delivered a strong performance in Vallelunga, and that in extreme heat over 30 degrees. Due to the pandemic some of our most experienced mechanics could not be there, so the team around crew chief Mike Law and Wolfram Lethert had to work under stress. The #23 Camaro had to stay in the garage because our Finnish driver Henri Tuomaala was not allowed to enter the country. Our Japanese Kenko Miura had the same problem and will be back at the wheel at the season finale in Valencia, Spain.
The next round of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will take place on October 3-4 at Circuit Zolder in Belgium. On the demanding track in the forests of Limburg, the DF1 Tigers have only one goal: to achieve further top results and collect important points for the championship. Until then, the vehicles will be prepared in the workshop and set up for the famous Belgian track.