Three of the brightest talents of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, representing three different countries and three different teams are tangled in a furious battle for the Junior Trophy entering the September 15-16 Semi Finals at the iconic Hockenheimring. 2017 ELITE 2 Champion Thomas Ferrando leads 2015 ELITE 2 Champion Gianmarco Ercoli by 5 points, while rookie Loris Hezemans sits just 3 points further back, a situation that will surely make for some explosive action in the four double-points playoff races.
Despite being still looking for his first win in the top division, with five top-10s and only one finish outside the top-15 Ferrando has been the most consistent of the trio and leads the classification rewarding drivers less than 25 years old. The Frenchman and the whole Knauf Racing Team are poised to climb on top of the podium in the last part of the season and dedicate a win to the memory of Knauf’s General Manager Denis Kleiber, who recently passed away.
“I’m happy lead the Junior Trophy, but in the first part of this season we weren’t as good as we wanted and we had many troubles during the Tours Speedway event. We’ve done consistent results with the Knauf Racing Team, but I’m sure we can do better in the playoffs,” said the driver of the #37 Knauf Racing Team Ford Mustang. “We want to be on the podium in every race and of course go on the top of it!”
In his third full-time ELITE 1 season after winning the ELITE 2 title in 2015, Ercoli broke through at Brands Hatch with a fantastic performance and became the first ELITE 2 Champion to win in the top class. Despite amassing also 2 top-5s and 5 top-10s, the competitive Italian expected more from his regular season.
“We lost too many points. I would have preferred to be closer to the top of the standings. At Valencia weren’t on top of our game, from Franciacorta onwards we have been very strong, then we hit troubles again at Tours. At Brands Hatch we finally got our first ELITE 1 win and it confirmed us we have been working in the right direction,” said the Italian. “I like the next two tracks very much and I hope to bring the #9 Jeikey Racers Motorsport Mustang to the front again because the whole team deserves it and we showed we have the potential.”
Ferrando and Ercoli racing door to door make for a familiar sight for the Euro NASCAR fans as the two have been among the protagonists of the ELITE 2 division since their debut. Their high level of competitiveness in the top division testifies how formative the ELITE 2 Division is for drivers coming straight from karting.
Coming from GT racing through the NWES Drivers Recruitment Program, Hezemans has been lighting quick since the very beginning of the season, but early DNFs costed him precious points in Valencia and Franciacorta. From Round 4 on, the Dutchman notched three podium finishes and never finished outside the top-10.
“I’m very happy about how quickly we adapted to the car and the series with Hendriks Motorsport. We already led a race and went on the podium. Pace-wise we’re there, we have the win in us and we showed it. There have been to many dnfs and that’s a shame, but we learnt from them,” said Hezemans. “I’ll take a slightly different approach for the playoffs. I’ll focus heavily on qualifying and then on finishing the race scoring as many points as possible. The goal is to finish all the races, grab as many points as possible and hopefully be able to win the Junior Trophy and a race in the US in my first year.”
British rookie Alex Sedgwick is not out of the picture as the Braxx Racing driver sits just 30 points behind Ferrando despite racing only 6 out of 8 regular season races in the ELITE 1 Division. Sedgwick scored 2 top-5s and 4 top-10s between Franciacorta and Tours.
The battle for the Junior Trophy will be even more exciting with such different characters involved. The three main contender agree on one thing though: each of them wants to be the winner.
“It’s going to be a great show for the fans,” said Ferrando. “Ercoli already won once and he could do it again and Hezemans is so fast he already went on the podium, but I’m confident we can beat the both. We have done a great job and we will continue to do it!”
“It is going to be a good battle with Thomas and Loris, but I believe we are faster than both and we are not in the lead because we left too many points on the table. Hezemans seems to have a stronger pace but he has less experience. We are determined to win, that’s the goal,” Ercoli said of his rivals.
“I respect both Ferrando and Ercoli, they are young and fast and they’re both very strong. Ferrando was very consistent, even if sometimes he wasn’t running as high as we were. Ercoli showed he is very fast and both will pose a great challenge, but I really hope to be the one who comes out on top!” concluded Hezemans.
The Euro NASCAR playoffs will begin on Sept 15-16 with four exciting races at the Hockenheimring, Germany. All the action will be streamed live on on Fanschoice.tv, Motorsport.tv, the NWES Facebook page and Youtube channel and a vast network of websites and social media profiles around the world.