Villeneuve scores maiden NASCAR Euro Series win in Italy
Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula 1 world champion, scored his first NASCAR Euro Series victory in a dramatic opening race of the championship's 2021 finals weekend at Vallelunga on Saturday.
After recording multiple podium finishes in the championship, including a second place at the Italian track near Rome last year, 11-times Grand Prix winner Villeneuve took the landmark win for the Academy Motorsport/Alex Caffi Motorsport team from second on the grid.
The Canadian's race was not without drama, however, as he was adjudged to have moved ahead of poleman Alon Day at the rolling start, earning a five-second penalty.
After passing Day under braking for the first corner, 50-year-old Villeneuve pulled away from the opposition and took a 5.2 second lead starting the final lap.
As the chequered flag flew, his advantage had extended to 6.3s over sometime GP2 racer Vittorio Ghirelli (Hendriks Motorsport), who was busy battling with Gianmarco Ercoli (CAAL Racing) until the finish.
A NASCAR Euro Series regular since 2019, Villeneuve has a best finish of third from nine starts in NASCAR's second-tier Xfinity Series between 2008 and 2012.
“Finally, it’s been a long time coming,” said Villeneuve, who won the 1995 Indianapolis 500 before making a successful switch to F1 with Williams in 1996.
“We have been fighting at the front a lot and the car was good in the race. We had a hard time in practice, but in qualifying the car was really amazing.
“I got a penalty at the start, I’m not sure why because the rules say ‘go’ on green - so I must have missed something in the rulebook.
Race winner Jacques Villeneuve, Academy Motosport / Alex Caffi Motosport
Photo by: ErregìMEDIA
“But [it was] a good thing I jumped the start because I didn’t have the horsepower against Alon, which was obvious until Turn 1.
“I guess having raced so much on the ovals in the States, I didn’t have to lift on the outside of Turn 1 there. I just went for it and Alon lifted.”
There was drama in the points race too, as series leader Loris Hezemans punted Day out of the race. Hezemans could only finish 10th after a drive-through penalty, allowing Ghirelli to close within five points of him ahead of Sunday’s final round.
Hezemans, 24, plans to compete in all the NASCAR Cup Series’ road course events in 2022 for the new Team Hezeberg squad, and will race at other oval tracks once he is approved by NASCAR.
Villeneuve tested the team’s Next Gen car at the Charlotte Roval earlier this month, setting the 12th fastest time, but also damaged it against the wall rejoining the oval section.
Christian Horner believes Sergio Perez’s Formula 1 tyre struggles in 2022 may be down to the fine margins needed to optimise the new 18-inch compounds.
Watch the fourth round of the 2022 Le Mans Virtual Series which will take place at Sebring
KTM motorsport boss Pit Beirer admits the manufacturer has “pushed too many great Moto2 riders too quickly into MotoGP” as it revises its line-up for 2023.
Toyota didn’t complete any private tests with the GR010 Hybrid after April due to budget constraints with its World Endurance Championship programme.