NWES: Five Whelen Euro Title Contenders Discuss Their Thoughts Headed to Le Mans

RaceChaser Staff International, NASCAR 0 Comments

LE MANS, France — official release — Stephane Azemard photo — One event. Two races. Five contenders. 38 points separating them.

Those are the numbers headed into the final event of the 2014 season for the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series this weekend as they embark on the Le Mans Finals at France’s Circuit Bugatti.

With 192 points available if a driver wins both races and leads the most laps, plus a changing weather forecast, everything will be on the line this weekend.  The possible scenarios for this thrilling season finale are countless, and all of the five contenders will have to balance strategy and will to win in an arduous exercise that will elect the European NASCAR Champion.

How will they approach the Finals? Find out below.

Ander Vilarino (#2 TFT-Banco Santander Chevrolet SS) P1 – 491 Points (4 Wins)

“This year I will have to use a different approach. In the two seasons as a NASCAR championship I had to go there and control the situation, I had no need to push to the limit. I started from the pole both in 2012 and 2013 but this year will it will be something similar to the Homestead race in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In my mind it is very clear what I have to do if someone else will win one or two races, but against Kumpen we just have to finish in front of him. I will go for the win in both races, then if a strategic opportunity will present itself, we’ll take it. But we are going for the win.”

Anthony Kumpen (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) – P2 – 480 Points (0 Wins)

“My feeling entering the Finals is pretty good. In Magione I finished second and fifth in the two races, but if you go a little deeper you’ll see we had the fastest car on track, we had a very fast pace. It gives me a lot of confidence going to Le Mans. My feeling with the car is very good and it improved a lot since the start of the season. It will be important to take the right decision, especially if the weather will be variable and I believe that my experience in endurance racing will help me a lot. I never drove the car in the rain, but I’m confident that we as a team are ready and well prepared. Winning the first race will be fundamental and I will go on the attack. It’s going to be really close!”

Borja Garcia (#1 Ford Autolix Competition Ford Mustang) – P3 – 470 Points (1 Win)

“We will see this week what the weather forecast is for the Finals because a changing weather can be another big challenge.  I will do my best to win both races and then see what the others did. I don’t feel too much pressure because this is my first year in this Series and in my mind I will go for the title in 2015. My car performed very well on a fast track like the Nurburgring and I did well last year in Le Mans, so I think we are in a good position. The weather can be a factor especially in Qualifying.”

Frederic Gabillon (#12 Still Racing Chevrolet Camaro) – P4 – 464 Points (1 Win)

“I hope to repeat last year’s weekend. Qualifying will be absolutely important. I hope to start from the front row and to win again both races and I know that if do it I will be the Champion. It will be more difficult than last year because the competition is incredibly tough, but I have to win on Saturday and Sunday, lead the most laps and see. It is racing and everything can always happen but we are prepared. You have to race like there’s nothing on the line, resist the pressure and don’t think about the championship, just win and do the math at the end of the weekend”

Eddie Cheever III (#51 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS)  – P5 – 453 Points (2 Wins)

“In Magione we were ultra competitive all weekend long and the team gave me a fantastic car that allowed me to close the gap a little bit. It was really hard, but to win in front of so many of my fans and dedicate such an important success to my mother on her birthday was something special. In Le Mans I will attack right from the first session, I’m still in contention and I will try until the end. It will be difficult and we will need a little bit of luck, but I’ll do all I can to be ready if I’ll be presented with the right occasion.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Le Mans has hosted the final stage of the championship since 2009, with the last two eventful editions crowning Ander Vilarino in the ELITE 1 division. Simon Escallier won the ELITE 2 division title in 2012, while Anthony Gandon took the 2013 crown.

The Procedure: 29 cars will take part in the event. Each division will take the track for a  15-minutes qualifying session on Saturday morning. The four races will be 30 minutes long. In case of a yellow flag followed by the deployment of the safety car, the restarts will be double-file.

The Track: Built in 1965, the Bugatti Circuit hosted the Grand Prix de l’ACF two years later and from 1969 built an international reputation for hosting motorcycle racing (including the Bol d’Or, MotoGP and Le Mans 24 Hours) as well as international car series and the FIA European Truck Racing Championship.

The event: The Le Mans Finals will take place as part of the 30th edition of the 24 Heures Camions, a special event dedicated to Truck Racing that together with the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series gathers more than 50 000 enthusiastic fans to the iconic French track.

Past Race Winners: Frederic Gabillon won both races in 2013, falling just 4 points short of becoming NWES Champion while Ander Vilarino won his second consecutive title. The Spaniard conquered the pole position both in 2012 and in 2013, but has never won at Le Mans since NASCAR took over the series’ sanction. Josh Burdon and Anthony Gandon split the two ELITE 2 races in 2013, with the latter overtaking the Australian in the championship standings in the final race of the season.

Season Winners: ELITE 1 (6) – Ander Vilarino (4), Eddie Cheever III (2), Mathias Lauda (1), Borja Garcia (1), Frederic Gabillon (1), Yann Zimmer (1). ELITE 2 (6) – Thomas Ferrando (2), Denis Dupont (2), Wilfried Boucenna (2), Neal Van Vaerenbergh (2), Maxime Dumarey (1), Philipp Lietz (1).

Pole Winners: ELITE 1 (3) – Eddie Cheever III (3), Bert Longin (1), Ander Vilarino (1). ELITE 2 (4) – Maxime Dumarey (2), Neal Van Vaerenbergh (1), Marsilio Canuti (1), Thomas Ferrando (1).

RACE NOTES

Three drivers battling for the ELITE 2 title: Three drivers emerged from the Autodromo dell’Umbria Semi Finals as the main contenders for the ELITE 2 division championship:  Maxime Dumarey (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS), Thomas Ferrando (#22 Overdrive Chevrolet Camaro) and Philipp Lietz (#86 TB Renauer Motorsport Ford Mustang). The three rookies will go for a final showdown in France with just 15 points separating them and 192 still to be awarded.

Brass Racing debuts: Team Owner / Driver Jerry Jerry De Weerdt (#78 Brass Racing Dodge Challenger) – who already raced in Brands Hatch in the ELITE 2 division – will bring Brass Racing to its first NASCAR appearence at the Circuit Bugatti. The Belgian team was founded in 2011 and has experience in domestic GT races and championships.

Home race for eleven drivers: There will be 11 French drivers on the grid in Le Mans. Anthony Gandon (#7 TFT-Red Style Chevrolet SS), , Wilfried Boucenna (#10 RDV Compétition Chevrolet SS), Frederic Gabillon (#12 Still Racing Chevrolet Camaro), and Nicolas Gaudin (#85 VTS 85 Chevrolet Camaro) will race in the ELITE 1 division, while Eric Quintal (#2 TFT-Banco Santander Chevrolet SS), Ulysse Delsaux (#10 RDV Compétition Chevrolet SS), Thomas Ferrando (#22 Overdrive Chevrolet Camaro) and Jack Gaudin will take part in the ELITE 2 division. Didier Bec (#8 RDV Compétition Ford Mustang), Guillaume Rousseau (#13 Bull Racing Team Ford Mustang), and Franck Violas (#23 RDV Compétition Chevrolet SS) will be on the grid in both divisions.

Last Time Out: Autodromo dell’Umbria Semi Finals 

Ander Vilarino and Eddie Cheever III won the two ELITE 1 races of the Autodromo dell’Umbria Semi Finals on September 20-21. The Spaniard edged a charging Anthony Kumpen on Saturday, while the Italian won his home race on Sunday at the end of a nail-biting duel with Vilarino. The ELITE 2 division saw Maxime Dumarey win for the first time in his NASCAR career in the Saturday Race and Philipp Lietz win the Sunday Race after benefiting from contact between Dumarey and Gianmarco Ercoli (#31 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) in the closing stages.

Next Time Out: NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards  

The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champions and trophy winners will be honored on December 13 in Charlotte, at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Convention Center during the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards. The 2015 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season will begin Valencia on April 25-26.

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