Anthony Kumpen (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) put one hand on the King Of Brands Hatch crown with a dominant win in the American SpeedFest ELITE 1 Round 3. The reigning NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Champion scored his eighth career win, the second at the historic British track.
After receiving the trophy, Kumpen said, “The race went really good. I’m really pleased. We started with low tire pressures because we knew it was a lot hotter than what it was during the practice sessions. We wanted to save our car a bit in the beginning so that we’d be strong for the end of the race. The first ten laps I struggled a bit to keep the field behind me but after that, the tires came in and we were able to pull away. That gave me an opportunity to run really clean laps and I was able to post the fastest lap of the race and get pole position for tomorrow. At that point, I was feeling really good until the caution came out. I knew we’d have to battle for the green-white-checkered but when the race went green, we were able to pull away, stay up front and claim the win!”
Kumpen started from the pole and led flag to flag, perfectly handling a green-white checkered finish to beat points leader Borja Garcia (#7 Racers Motorsport Ford Mustang) to the line by .328 seconds.
The first 20 laps featured a spectacular battle between up to six drivers in the front group, all running at qualifying pace, but as soon as the race approached its final third, Kumpen was able to build a solid margin on the rest of the field, led by Borja Garcia (#7 Racers Motorsport Ford Mustang) until the safety car was deployed on lap 26 to allow the marshals to retrieve Marconi De Abreu (#47 Brazil Team Toyota Camry) from the gravel trap at the last turn, leading to a Green-White-Checkered finish.
Frederic Gabillon (#3 Tepac RDV Compétition Toyota Camry) was sitting third behind the safety car, but he lost his clutch on the way up to Druids and sadly had to retire. Kumpen had a great restart at the head of the field, while behind him Garcia slotted in second to finish behind the Belgian and further cementing his points lead.
Garcia said, “I feel really happy to finish second. I’m very thankful for Racers Motorsport who gave me the opportunity to race here this weekend. We had a really good race and I was looking forward to another good finish but then when I saw the safety car pull on to the track I thought, oh no, a restart on the outside of turn one! When the green flag dropped, I had to be a bit aggressive and was really lucky to stay in second place. After three races, my worst finish so far is second position so I feel really really good! ”
Alon Day (#54 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) was third, just ahead of Marc Goossens (#90 Brass Racing Ford Mustang) and Gianmarco Ercoli (#9 Racers Motorsport Ford Mustang), who won the Junior Trophy classification.
Thomas Ferrando (#37 Knauf Racing Team Ford Mustang) won a fierce battle for sixth, edging Stienes Longin (#11 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS), Christophe Bouchut (#66 DF1 Racing Chevrolet SS) – the Frenchman now trails Garcia by 22 points – Salvador Tineo Arroyo (#56 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) and Alex Kapadia (#70 Mishumotors Chevrolet SS). The British veteran was the highest finisher among the Series new entries, beating his teammate Bruno Junqueira (#33 Mavi Mishumotors Chevrolet SS).
NASCAR Champion Bobby Labonte climbed up to 14th place from the back of the grid.
“We finished better than we started but just never really took off. We kind of ran the same speed all race long. We passed some cars and gained some positions in the last restart, while trying to maintain our car for tomorrow,” said Labonte. “It was a good experience, but we have to work on our setup to finish better in tomorrow’s race, because we missed it today and just weren’t good enough.”
The ELITE 1 Division will be back on track on Sunday to elect the King Of Brands Hatch at 2:35 pm CET. The race will be streamed live on Fanschoice.tv and the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Facebook page.