Thrilling action on the race track, a lot of colourful activity, a great atmosphere in the paddock and, in addition, beautiful weather over long stretches of the weekend – the third American Fan Fest was held from 20 to 22 September at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg and fully met the expectations of the organisers and the approximately 10,000 visitors. What began two years ago as an attempt to transplant motorsport USA-style into the German racing landscape has also now become a fixed point and highlight of the Hockenheim season.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series races were, of course, at the centre of the action. Two full fields in the ELITE1 and ELITE2 classes offered stock car racing at its best to packed stands on both days. There were fierce duels, which also included one or two close shaves, and exciting developments in the overall standings in both categories.
In the ELITE1, Belgium’s Stienes Longin, who had travelled to Hockenheim as the leader in the standings, was just as much at home in the play-off semi-finals as two-time champion Alon Day from Israel and NWES record winner Ander Vilarino (Spain). The one to really benefit was Loris Hezemans of the Netherlands, who took the overall lead with two wins and thus created an excellent starting position for the season finale in two weeks in Zolder. A real showdown awaits the fans in the ELITE2, where the Swiss Giorgio Maggi also lost ground after the triumph on Saturday the following day and is just ahead of his main rival and Sunday winner Lasse Soerensen from Denmark.
The 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, meanwhile, is a fan of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, even though his final positions 13 and 7 at Hockenheim did not meet the expectations of the 1995 Indycar Champion and Indy-500 winner: “The reason I’m starting here is simple: it’s a lot of fun! And that’s true for this event at Hockenheim too”.
Daniel Keilwitz also had great fun at the American Fan Fest. The record winner of the ADAC GT Masters had followed the call of the Munich US car tuner Karl Geiger to make his debut in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series with Team Mishumotors. It was like getting immersed in a whole new racing world: “The stock car behaves so differently than the modern GT3 cars I’m used to. No paddle shift, no ABS, no aerodynamics, much more movement in the chassis – that’s pure motorsport. When I first sat in the car on Friday, I immediately had a big grin on my face”. The Villingen native Keilwitz was forced to pull out of his debut in a 400 hp racing car. His seventh place in the ELITE1 on Saturday was followed by sixth place for Sunday. But following a major crash of his team mate Mirco Schultis in the ELITE2 race in the morning, he was unable to take up this place. In the NASCAR Wheel Euro Series, it is common for cost reasons for a ELITE1 and a ELITE2 pilot each to share a racer.
It was not only the NASCAR races that enthused the spectators: the supporting programme with Spezial Tourenwagen Trophy, Sports Car Challenge, P9 Challenge and Renault Clio Cup Europe offered top-notch racing entertainment too. And the attractions in the paddock with merchandising stands, a motorcycle stunt show, a US car show, bull riding, a bouncy castle for the little ones and, of course, various catering options were very well received. Which proves that the Motorsport USA-style concept, uniting sport and show, also works extremely well in Baden.
Jörg Bensemann, President of the Badischer Motorsport Club, also draws an all-round positive conclusion: “Great races, great weather, great atmosphere – what more do we want? This event is an incentive for us to jointly establish this great format in Germany. We’re laying a foundation stone for this right now: For 2020 the American Fan Fest is contractually secured, and we are working on an agreement for three more years!”
For more information, see www.hockenheimring.de