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LE MANS, France – Ander Vilarino wrote a new page in the history books Sunday by becoming the inaugural EURO-RACECAR NASCAR Touring Series champion. The Spaniard has dominated the 2012 season with six wins, eight top-fives and 11 top-10 finishes, as well as three pole positions for sprint races and two in endurance events.
The stakes were high ahead of the series’ trip to the Le Mans Bugatti circuit and the season finale did not disappoint. In a change from the previous five rounds, Vilarino (#2 TFT-Banco Santander) took points rather than wins at the French venue, knowing that victories were not essential in his quest to clinch the crown. Instead he was solid, finishing seventh and 10th respectively in the weekend’s two races.
“I focused on not making a mistake,” said the new champion. “I didn’t want to be involved in an accident or a suffer a mechanical failure. During the endurance race I listened to every sound the car was making! When I returned to the pits I was crying with emotion. I want to thank my TFT-Banco Santander team who have done an incredible job throughout the season."
With the championship, Vilarino earned a locked-in spot to the UNOH Battle At The Beach next February on the .4-mile oval at Daytona International Speedway. The champions of NASCAR's three international series -- Canadian Tire Series, Mexico's Toyota Series, and Euro Racecar Series -- have a locked-in spot to one of the three races (K&N Pro Series, Whelen Modified Tour or Whelen All-American Series) they elect to enter.
Vilarino will be honored for his title run along with NASCAR's other touring series champions on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the NASCAR Touring Series Awards at the Grand Ballroom of the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
ENDURANCE: THIEVIN TRIED EVERYTHING, ESCALLIER CROWD IN OPEN DIVISION
Though the sun broke through at the French track treaded tyres were still the order of the day for the decisive endurance race. Gael Castelli again benefited from the title chasers cautious approach to win, beating Romain Thievin as the Frenchman did all he could to become champion. The podium was completed by Romain Iannetta, confirming that the Orhès Competition man’s morning pace was no flash in the pan.
Like Castelli, Nicolas Dekejser demonstrated impressive adaptability on his EURO-RACECAR debut by securing fourth, while Willy Boucenna (#17 Pole Position 81) produced a good comeback after starting from tenth place to complete the top-five. Next up was Villa – who took third place in the championship and also recorded a final victory in the Junior Trophy with P6 – followed by Anthony Garbarino, Fournillier and Vilarino.
After the driver change David Perrisset (#99 Still Racing-Exotics Racing) emerged in the lead but quickly succumbed to the onslaught of Olivier Porta (#64 TFT-Alpes Carrelage). Victorious in yesterday’s sprint contest, he sealed another win to cap a brilliant debut weekend. Behind him Simon Escallier (#19 Scorpus Racing) took second place to win the Open Division title while team-mate Josh Burdon (#18 Scorpus Racing) rounded out the podium after climbing from16th at the start. Vincent Gonneau (#15 Gonneau Racing) couldn’t quite break into the top-three, taking fourth ahead of Gérald Cormon (#25 Orhès Competition), Alain Grand (#11 Over Drive-McDonald's), Christophe de Fierland (#46 Racing Club Partner), Benoît Dekejser (#29 Racing Club Partner), Leonardo Vernet (#22 Over Drive-Moser Vernet) and Eric Quintal (#2 TFT-Banco Santander).