VALENCIA, Spain – Saturday finished off a perfect NASCAR Whelen Euro Series comeback for Ander Vilarino, as he completed a sweep of the season-opening weekend at Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
After winning on Saturday, the Spaniard went back-to-back in an exciting second race for the ELITE 1 division, leading all the 18 laps of the race despite some pressure.
Vilarino and his No. 48 Racing Engineering Ford Mustang outpaced Stienes Longin’s No. 24 PK Carsport Chevrolet Camaro, as Longin finished second in both races.
The two leave Valencia first and second in the championship standings, separated by 10 points.
Vilarino held off the Belgian all race long in a flat-out race for the win, marking the 22nd in his NASCAR Whelen Euro Series career and his sixth at Valencia, further strengthening Vilarino’s position as the most successful driver in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series history.
“We just had a fantastic car; I have to congratulate Racing Engineering for this,” said Vilarino. “It was the team’s first race ever in this series and they did a great job. I was not expecting to win a single race here in front of my home crowd, but honestly the car was perfect. Thanks to the fans, Euro NASCAR and everyone involved for making it such a great weekend.”
Though Longin was second, he did not leave disappointed.
“It was a really great weekend for us,” said Longin, who will chase Vilarino for the championship lead at Autodromo di Franciacorta in Italy next month. “The team was outstanding in building the car and finding such a good setup. I think I had a shot to win the second race here. In the end it’s good to score a lot of points at the first weekend of the season.
“I tried to push a little bit harder to get Ander, but he was just a little bit quicker.”
Loris Hezeman, who won the Junior Trophy, ended up third after battling down with Alon Day for the final spot on the overall podium.
Nicolo Rocca got his second consecutive top-five finish in fifth, also taking second place on the Junior Trophy podium.
Frederic Gabillon edged Romain Iannetta, who ended up seventh. It was Gabillon’s second top-10 of the weekend.
Salvador Tineo Arroyo, who was third in the Junior Trophy, finished eighth ahead of Thomas Ferrando and Martin Doubek.
Past NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte ended up 14th after climbing from 21st on the grid, while Dario Caso won the Challenger Trophy ahead of Kenko Miura and Henri Tuomaala.
The start of the race saw a big crash on the main straightaway.
Ellen Lohr and Maurio Trione made contact and slammed hard into the wall. Both drivers walked away and had a friendly chat right after the checkered flag waved.
Sunday was a difficult race for former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve, who was forced to retire the No. 32 Go Fas Racing entry while running in the top 10.