The EuroNASCAR spectacle returns to the track, resuming Female Trophy battle
The popular American SpeedFest at Brands Hatch finally resumed the EuroNASCAR season: series veteran Arianna Casoli and EN2 rookie Alina Loibnegger shared victories in the closely fought Female Trophy.
Arianna Casoli has been around motorsport since she was born but her racing career was far from a conventional one. After an over 10-year hiatus, she came back to her original love for motorsport and hit the track again in 2013. Having made her debut in the European NASCAR division – an increasingly popular championship thanks to its fan-friendly environment yet featuring some world-class drivers on its grid – Arianna immediately won the Ladies Trophy classification and secured more victories in the female classification and in the Legend Trophy throughout the five consecutive years in the series. In 2021, Casoli is back for her sixth season in EuroNASCAR, again at the wheel of the now iconic yellow #54 CAAL Racing Chevrolet. Joining Casoli this year is Austrian rookie Alina Loibnegger. The 26-year old racer has stepped up from the Elite Club category to the EN2 division and made her debut at the season opener at Valencia earlier this year. Loibnegger had already turned heads in 2019, when she was second in Hockenheim in the Elite Club class and was signed this year by Solaris Motorsport in the #12 Chevrolet Camaro. Over one and a half month ago, at the Spanish round that kicked off the season, Arianna was P13 and P18, while Alina completed the first double-header with a 16th and a 19th place, in a learning-oriented round. After a series of postponements, the American SpeedFest at the historic circuit of Brands Hatch – in its Indy configuration – could finally get underway, and for the first time with a limited number of spectators. On a typically British weekend, the mixed weather made everything even more complex for the drivers of the spectacular V8-powered stockcars. "Finally, we had some spectators on the stands after almost a year of competitions behind closed doors" – said Casoli, who has undeniably become one of the most popular drivers in the series thanks to her friendly personality.
The two drivers battling for the Ladies Trophy lined up on the grid of the first race from the tenth row, in 19th and 20th position respectively. Arianna had already endured a rough start to her weekend and had to miss a practice session and part of qualifying. "On Friday, after a minor technical issue, the car was not returned to the garage in order not to delay the following session – which I should have taken part in – so with only one free practice session under my belt I lost any chance of making the most out of it before Saturday's qualifying", she told us. Arianna's car was then further delayed for a light malfunction and the Italian driver managed to finally join the track once the rain had already started to fall – severely hampering her chances in qualifying on the now slippery circuit.
Race 1 The start of the 30-lap first race was a clean one, with Advait Deodhar – having secured his first pole position – got off the line well. Both Arianna Casoli and Alina Loibnegger held positions, before Leevi Lintukanto found himself in the gravel after contact with Hollamby. The race was thus neutralized by a Safety Car that bunched up the field once again: Deodhar led Tobias Dauenhauer and Justin Kunz. The Indian racer had a good restart once the green flag waved back in the air, while Kuntz lost his third place to Panebianco. Both Loibnegger and Casoli gained a position when Hollamby pitted with damage. Soon after, Loibnegger dropped two places, promoting Casoli to P18 and at the top of the Female classify. A thoroughly entertaining battle just behind the podium positions saw Justin Kunz losing touch with the leading trio - as Garisto had meanwhile fought his way up to third - and was passed by both Simon Pilate and Martin Doubek. The Czech driver at the wheel of the #7 Hendricks Motorsport Ford chased Pilate as well, but the two made light contact that sent the championship leader off the track. Still, he rejoined ahead of Kunz. Advait Deodhar took a controlled victory – his maiden win in the series – ahead of Tobias Dauenhauer, with the latter losing some time to the leader with lapped cars. Francesco Garisto was third across the finish line but was later handed a 5 second time penalty for causing a collision that dropped him to seventh and promoted Pilate to the final step of the podium. Arianna Casoli had a good recovery from the back of the field and was P17 at the chequered flag, taking victory in the Ladies Trophy and more valuable points for the Legend classify.
"Luckily, sharing the car with [Gianmarco] Ercoli and having an exceptional and experienced team like CAAL Racing behind me, the car was really performing, and we took home a good race and victory in the Lady Cup while starting from the back of the grid." – said Arianna, who had found a good pace in spite of the Friday difficulties. Alina Loibnegger was P19 across the line in her first ever race at Brands Hatch, as the Austrian continues her learning experience in the series, supported by Solaris Motorsport. The result meant she was third among the rookies. "Today's race day was a great experience, I was able to improve in big steps and got faster and faster." – said the young Austrian. "It's my first time at Brands Hatch. With Solaris Motorsport I have got the perfect opportunity to improve quickly", she added, thanking the team for their support.
Race 2 On Sunday, Tobias Dauenhauer managed to grab the lead as the lights went out, as the pole-sitter Deodhar dropped to second. Few drops of rain could be felt, but there was ultimately no downpour to disrupt the race. Loibnegger had a good first part of the race and climbed to 17th place. Having made contact with Garisto, Martin Doubek spun – in what was a crucial moment for the race of one of the championship contenders. Garisto was deemed at fault, and received a drive-through penalty. There was more action involving Vladimiros Tziortzis and Shaun Hollamby; the Cypriot had been following the Briton on his tail for a long time, until he finally made the successful move. The battle for the Ladies Trophy was again open, as Casoli had managed to recover a few positions and was about to repeat the previous day's result. Loibnegger tried to hang on to her 17th place, but had to give up two places over the course of the race.
Race 1 winner Deodhar started to lose touch to Dauenhauer's #50 Hendricks Motorsport Ford Mustang and was caught by Pilate; the Belgian was focused on claiming second from Deodhar and tried around the outside – initially without success. Pilate found the winning move with only two laps to go, advancing into the runner up spot. This exciting battle, though, gave Dauenhauer the opportunity to secure a truly dominant victory, his first of the season. Doubek was only 13th after his incident. Meanwhile, another fight for fourth saw Vladimiros Tziortzis hunting down Naveh Talor, but the latter was ultimately able to hold off the attacks. With four laps to go, Arianna Casoli entered the pit lane and retired with technical troubles. "Sunday we could have repeated the previous day's performance, but we were forced to retire in the final stages of the race", stated Arianna. "This happens and is part of the game." "Probably not the weekend I expected, but at least I have collected good points for both the Lady and Legend championships and I am currently in 16th position overall, first among the Ladies and 5th in the Legend class, with many races still to go." Alina Loibnegger crossed once again the finish line in 19th place, taking home her first victory in the Female Trophy. “It was an amazing weekend", Alina told us after the race. "The first time for me at Brands Hatch, a great but very demanding track! I have learned a lot and I'm happy to be part of Solaris Motorsport, they do an amazing job!" "With many ups and downs this weekend, I was able to secure P3 in the Rookie Trophy and on Sunday I won the Lady Trophy! Thanks to everyone who supports me!” The Czech recatrack of Autodrom Most will host the third round of the 2021 EuroNASCAR championship, on 28/29 August.