As most people were packing their bags for an Easter break in the Spanish sun, Alex was instead packing his racing kit and heading for the Ricardo Tormo circuit. Alex, who will be the only British driver in this year’s NWES series will contest the full 2018 series with the Italian MRT team based in Milan.
He will be driving one of their 400 bhp American stock cars (No 58) similar to the cars raced in America on the famous high banked oval tracks. The series, which is fully supported by NASCAR in the US is also sponsored by WHELEN and is contested by professional drivers from around the world. This year, 2000 NASCAR Cup Champion Bobby Labonte will also be one of the drivers Alex will be racing against, in the 12 rounds series as it travels around Europe.
“Having this opportunity to race in NASCAR is a dream come true and racing with legends like Bobby Labonte is unbelievable. I met Bobby at a NWES test in France in November last year and he helped me a great deal to understand the car. Now racing alongside him will be a privilege. The NASCAR is totally different to the cars I have driven before, it is all American muscle, with absolutely no driver aids” commented Alex.
Alex did not take long before he was battling with Bobby Labonte. In qualifying for the Elite 1 Group Alex out qualified Bobby and started Saturday’s race in front of the NASCAR champion. During the race the two drivers raced hard and they both had the Spanish crowd on their feet as they swapped positions, and for a lap battled door to door around the twisty circuit. At the flag it was Labonte who took the flag in front of Alex by just over a second.
However, it was Alex who set the fastest lap of the two drivers by two tenths of a second.
“If I was told a couple of years ago I’d spend nearly a whole lap side by side, door to door with Bobby Labonte and finish one second behind him, I’d have never believed it, and then to out qualify him in my first NASCAR race, it is a great start”, reflected Alex.
Race 1 Alex finished a creditable 15th in a field of thirty cars all previous NASCAR series drivers, and he only sat in the race car for the first time prior to the race!
After the race Bobby came to find Alex and they chatted and exchanged comments about the race and their cars, a true measure of a great champion.
Race 2 on Sunday again saw Alex head Labonte off the grid due to Alex setting the faster time in Race 1. Another strong performance saw Alex fight his way up to 10th place, but the race was interrupted by two safety car periods which bunched the field back up, each time Alex made a break. Unfortunately, just before the second safety car restart Alex lost intermittently 2nd gear and with reduced drive out of the corner Alex lost the place to Labonte and slipped down to 15th overall at the chequered flag.
Having never raced a NASCAR and, never seen the Valencia circuit before, two mid-pack finishes are a great start to the season. Next Alex will head to Italy for the second round in less than four weeks’ time.