The first race of the season saw Alex take a hard fought podium position in round one of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in Valencia, Spain at the weekend.
With a record entry of 33 cars, and one of the most competitive fields in the series history, including ex-F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, American NASCAR Champion Bobby Labonte and thirteen Euro NASCAR winners, the Elite 1 race was going to be a race not to be missed.
It had been over a year since Alex last raced at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia where he made his NASCAR debut back in 2018. However, the circuit might not have changed but the Braxx Racing Chevrolet Camaro has had a number of changes since Alex last raced it in 2018. These changes to the suspension, the car’s aerodynamics and the tyres would all play a part in the two races Alex would contest over the weekend.
Thursday kicked off the race weekend and gave Alex his first opportunity to drive his car equipped with the new suspension, rear aerodynamic changes and the new for 2019 General Tire.
It would be the tyres, however, which would become the main talking point over the weekend for all the race teams as they tried to learn how to get the best out of them. Unlike the previous Michelin tyres used in the series last year, the new tyre supplied by General Tire brought a new dimension to the racing.
Throughout Thursday’s test session, Alex worked with his race engineers to find a set-up for Qualifying on Saturday which would enable him to do fast qualifying laps but still have life in his tyres for the weekend’s two races, as he is only allowed to use one set of controlled tyres for the whole race weekend.
A lot of hard work and data analysis allowed the Braxx team to find a good set-up. Friday’s two short free practice sessions confirmed the car’s set-up and that Alex had started to master the new tyres, as he ended the second free practice session with the 5th fastest lap time overall.
Final Free Practice Times
1. Ander Vilarino (#48 Racing Engineering Ford Mustang)
2. Alon Day (#54 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS)
3. Loris Hezemans (#50 Hendriks Motorsport Ford Mustang)
4. Stienes Longin (#11 PK Carsport Chevrolet Camaro)
5. Alex Sedgwick (#90 Braxx Racing Chevrolet Camaro)
6. Nicolo Rocca (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet Camaro)
Saturday morning, qualifying kicked off under the hot Spanish sunshine and Alex had just ten minutes to set a time good enough to get him into the “Super Pole” one lap shoot out for the fastest twelve cars. Lining up as the sixth car to leave the pit line, based on Friday’s combined practice time, one fast initial run saw Alex post a time fast enough to secure a place in the all important “Super Pole” and give him the chance to go for “Pole” position in the one lap shoot out.
A good “Super Pole” lap saw Alex secure 6th place on the grid, a position which would see him line up just behind four former Euro NASCAR Champions, and as the second placed junior driver (Drivers under 25 years of age).
Super Pole Times
1. Ander Vilarino (#48 Racing Engineering Ford Mustang) - 01:40,629
2. Lucas Lasserre (#33 Mishumotors Chevrolet Camaro) - 01:40,963
3. Alon Day (#54 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) - 01:40,983
4. Stienes Longin (#11 PK Carsport Chevrolet Camaro) - 01:40,997
5. Nicolo Rocca (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet Camaro) - 01:41,002
6. Alex Sedgwick (#90 Braxx Racing Chevrolet Camaro) - 01:41,129
7. Frederic Gabillon (#3 RDV Competition Chevrolet SS) - 01:41,378
Saturday’s race saw 29 cars line up on the grid for 18 laps which, with a cloudless sky and glorious Spanish sunshine, it was going to be a real test for man and machine with temperatures in the high twenties. Enjoying the sunshine and the racing in the Valencia NASCAR Fest were hundreds of Spanish fans all filling the main spectator areas and excited to see the first Euro NASCAR race of the 2019 championship.
The site and sound of 29 NASCAR stock cars producing between them over 11,600 bhp, all together for the rolling start was an amazing sight. A strong start saw Alex maintain his starting position and then join the front ten cars as they quickly pulled a gap from the rest of the field, as the laps counted down. With 18 laps, approximately 60 miles, and temperatures in the high twenties, tyre management and driver fitness was going to be tested to the limit.
Alex set a very fast pace which enable him to go with the lead gap and the previous ten cars then reduced to six cars as the race neared the finish. With three laps to go, Alex found himself in a strong 6th place overall and the second placed junior driver. However, with a second race on Sunday it was important to look after the tyres so Alex held his place to the flag and took a well deserved first podium position of 2019.
Result Race 1
1. Ander Vilarino (#48 Racing Engineering Ford Mustang)
2. Stienes Longin (#11 PK Carsport Chevrolet Camaro)
3. Alon Day (#54 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS)
4. Lucas Lasserre (#33 Mishumotors Chevrolet Camaro)
5. Nicolo Rocca (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet Camaro)
6. Alex Sedgwick (#90 Braxx Racing Chevrolet Camaro)
7. Loris Hezemans (#50 Hendriks Motorsport Ford Mustang)
If Saturday had been a race of tyre management, Sunday’s race would turn into a lesson in aerodynamics.
By setting the 7th fastest time in the first race, Alex lined up on the grid for race two in 7th place.
Another strong start by Alex saw him gain a place into the first corner but the advantage would be short lived as two cars behind him tangled on the start-finish straight wrecking the cars and blocking the track. This brought out an instant safety car and another restart.
With stricken cars and smashed bodywork littering the track, the first race lap was completed by the cars following the safety car through the pit lane to rejoin the track in front of the accident. Both drivers got out of their wrecked cars without any injuries, a demonstration of the strength and protection engineered into a modern NASCAR stock car, the track was cleaned up and a second rolling restart initiated.
Again a strong start saw Alex move up a place at the restart and he slotted into 6th place as the cars braked from over 150 mph into the slow 2nd gear corner, turn two. Perfectly positioned entering the corner Alex followed the cars in front into the braking zone when the car behind him completely missed the braking point smashing into the back of Alex’s car destroying the rear bodywork of the car.
Recovering from the impact, Alex managed to hold his place and rounded the next two corners still in 6th place. However, as he braked for the slow hairpin turn 7, the complete rear spoiler and remaining rear section of the car flew off.
Unaware initially of the loss of the rear spoiler, Alex entered the next corner and found the car would not turn and he had to use all his skill to keep the car on the track. With no rear spoiler Alex had no rear grip and the car was undriveable at the high race speeds necessary; he was forced to retire from race 2 from what would have clearly been another strong finish.
Not the result Alex deserved, but the speed he showed throughout the weekend and the podium in the first race clearly showed he will be one of the drivers to watch in 2019.
Alex Sedgwick: "Despite the disappointment of not finishing race 2, it has been an extremely positive weekend. To start the season on the podium and with very strong pace is for me, a sign that this is going to be a good year!"
Now Alex heads for the next round in Franciacorta, Italy in May, looking for two strong finishes and a good points haul.