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Everything and a little more happened at Brands Hatch in the ELITE 1 Round 4 race. In the end, it was Alon Day (#54 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) who was crowned King Of Brands Hatch. The Israeli won for the first time this season, the seventh in his career and the second at Brands Hatch in a race that offered a unique show: overtakes, door-to-door battles, contacts, breath-taking restarts and even a comeback from 2 laps down for Borja Garcia (#7 Racers Motorsport Ford Mustang) that saved the Spaniard's points lead.
The day started really strange because we had to change the engine this morning. The team did a great job but we didn’t know what to expect for the race. When I jumped into the car I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, especially starting from the outside.” On the notorious bump, Day said, “Kumpen slid going into the turn and I realized that it was my opportunity to overtake him. After completing the pass, I looked back in my mirror and saw that Gabillon also made the pass and was behind me. He stayed close and never gave up throughout the race. It was really challenging. He had a few really good chances too with the restarts. It was a tough race! I felt like I had to look in my mirrors more than I looking out front. I want to really thank my team, my sponsors and everybody that made this possible. Everybody did a great job, the car was perfect.” As for being crowned, Day said, “It's amazing to be the king!”
Things went south for points leader Borja Garcia (#7 Racers Motorsport Ford Mustang), who found himself two laps behind the leader due to a punctured tire, while at the front, Day was passing polesitter Anthony Kumpen (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) for the lead with a bump-and-run move at Graham Hill bend. The reigning champion fell to fourth, behind Day, Frederic Gabillon (#3 Tepac RDV Compétition Toyota Camry) and Marc Goossens (#90 Brass Racing Ford Mustang).
Christophe Bouchut (#66 DF1 Racing Chevrolet SS) and Bruno Junqueira (#33 Mavi Mishumotors Chevrolet SS) found themselves in the gravel at Clearways and triggered a caution that bunched up the field on lap 9. The Frenchman had to retire, while the Brazilian was able to rejoin.
Thomas Ferrando (#37 Knauf Racing Team Ford Mustang) took third place from Goossens in the ensuing restart, but the safety car came out again on lap 18 to retrieve the #11 Chevrolet SS of Stienes Longin (#11 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) from the grass between Druids and Graham Hill bend. The caution bunched up the field for another restart, and Garcia took his second free pass to return on the lead lap and start a furious comeback.
Experience paid off for Goossens, who was able to take third place back from Ferrando with a brilliant move on the restart, while Day checked out and took the checkered flag without any challenges and a .765 seconds margin on Gabillon. Ferrando dropped back to fifth, leaving fourth place to Salvador Tineo Arroyo (#56 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS), who also led the Junior Trophy.
“Today was a good day for our team. We had a some mechanical problems in practice yesterday and broke the clutch. The crew worked really hard and fixed the problem. Unfortunately, parts brake sometimes, it happens in racing. Today, however, the car was really good. The team gave me a great setup and it was very fast. We didn't plan for the two safety cautions and we suffered a little bit with the tire pressures. All in all, I’m very happy for the second place finish and looking forward to the next race in Venray,” said Gabillon.
“There was a lot of battling going on up front. Yesterday, the Top-5 was grouped in one tenth, that's what we call real racing, there’s no need for BOP like other championships. This Series provides good equipment, there are a lot of good competitors and that means a great show for the fans. Honestly, I don't think I had the speed to be on the podium, especially starting from 5th place on the grid with all the racing battles going on around me. The competition was dropping off the track and I managed to get in a third. I did not have a good restart at the first caution and I lost one position to the 37 car, said Goossens. “For the second restart, I thought to myself, I have 30+ years of racing experience and I can’t lose to this youngster, so I made move and it went well! I'm very happy to come back to the podium with Braxx Racing, they gave me a very good car and this team really deserves it. They’re a good group of people and very much like a family. They put so much effort into their racing program. Three podiums in my last four races feel good.”
Gianmarco Ercoli edged Kumpen for sixth place, while Freddy Nordstrom (#44 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) was a solid eight. Garcia completed his outstanding comeback in ninth and NASCAR legend Bobby Labonte (#1 Whelen Engineering Alex Caffi Motorsport Ford Mustang) closed a spectacular performance in tenth place coming from the very back of the field.
Marko Stipp (#46 Racing Total Chevrolet SS) won the Challenger Trophy for the new Racing Total team in his return to the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
The ELITE 1 Division will be back on July 15-16 at Raceway Venray with Garcia leading Day in the points standings.