Eric HélaryEric Hélary enjoyed the best preparation possible for his upcoming American NASCAR appearance by claiming victory in the weekend’s second Elite Super Final race this afternoon. The Frenchman, who secured the prize for winning last season’s title, more than proved his credentials to the US officials present at Tours Speedway who also witnessed Vincent Gonneau take victory in the Open division in what was the culmination of a triumphant EURO-RACECAR NASCAR Touring Series weekend.

If yesterday’s Michelin 100 race failed to deliver the result expected of Hélary then the #14 Still Racing-JDC Finance driver was able to make amends in the best way possible by winning on a circuit bathed in bright sunshine this afternoon.

The defending champion started amongst a lead pack headed by Carole Perrin (#42 Autosport 42), Romain Iannetta (#25 Orhès Competition) and Dimitri Enjalbert (#33 OverDrive). By lap 20 Hélary had moved up to second place behind female racer Perrin whose flawless early run had been thwarted by a second caution. Enjalbert subsequently spent time at the head of the pack in front of Ander Vilarino (#2 TFT-Banco Santander) who was overtaken shortly after half-distance by Romain Thievin (#99 Still Racing-Exotics Racing). But it was Hélary who landed the deciding blow with 20 laps remaining when Enjalbert and Thievin made contact.

Once in control, nothing and no one could deprive Hélary of victory on his return to the championship after hanging up his helmet at the end of last season. Always eager to put on a good show, he celebrated by clambering out on to his car’s door during the warm-down lap.

“When I was testing alone, it was hard to imagine that I could enjoy the race so much,” he confessed. “Being in the tow helped and I was able to improve the relationship with my spotter. It was an interesting experience.”

Vilarino, who has been the man to beat over the first three rounds of 2012, finished second while his usual rivals Thievin and Javier Villa (#64 Gonneau Racing) failed to deliver the success widely expected of them, the Spaniard suffering from two DNFs this weekend.

Third place went to another Guest racer in the shape of Yvan Muller (#100 Still Racing-Convergence). Just like today’s winner, he greatly enjoyed the experience, initially being patient before gradually working his way towards the sharp end and grabbing third at the final restart with just two laps remaining.

It was a race that finished under a green/white chequered flag after a collision at Turn 2 involving Enjalbert, Emmanuel Brigand (#7 Rapido Racing) and Yann Zimmer (#18 Scorpus Racing-M&M’s).

Just outside the top three Wilfried Boucenna (#17 Pole Position 81-AIS) won the Junior category by beating Anthony Garbarino (#06 Rapido Racing) and Romain Fournillier (#11 OverDrive-McDonalds), while Stéphane Jaggi (#22 OverDrive) ultimately collected the Challenger Trophy.

OPEN DIVISION: GONNEAU PROVES UNTOUCHABLE

The Open division Final was raced over a distance of 50 laps, all of which were led by Vincent Gonneau. Having chosen to ignore the Tours 100 race (he is also registered in the Elite class) his performance benefitted from using a car much fresher than its rivals following an accident-strewn Elite Super Final. “Perhaps I was helped,” he confirmed. “There was no point risking the car because I wanted to make sure of picking up big points in the Open championship, which remains my priority this season. But that’s not the only explanation. I found a good line and an unlikely set-up that finally helped the rear suspension to work perfectly.”

Second in the Final, Simon Escallier (#18 Scorpus Racing) once again proved his speed but could not apply the necessary pressure on Gonneau thanks to a spin. Tanguy Ide (#44 Orhès Competition) finished third after a fierce battle with David Perisset (#99 Still Racing-Exotics Racing) whose team had earlier done a great job to repair the car after his team-mate’s Elite Super Final accident.

Victorious yesterday, Frederic Johais (#33 OverDrive) could only finish fifth after a drive-through penalty for over-aggressive driving stifled his early promise. He came home ahead of leading Legend Alain Grand (#11 OverDrive-McDonald’s) and Philippe Baudinière (#17 Pole Position 81). Leonard Vernet (#22 OverDrive-Moser Vernet), female racer Zihara Esteban (#42 Autosport 42) and Eric van de Vyver (#7 Rapido Racing) all retired, the latter pair after just two laps.

And so the race brought the curtain down on the inaugural EURO-RACECAR NASCAR Touring Series weekend at Tours Speedway, a unique and exceptional event enthusiastically received by the public who filled the stands and showed their appreciation with warm applause. It was also an acknowledgement of the hard work undertaken by the organisers in collaboration with the Tours Exhibition under the auspices of the Fédération Française du Sport Automobile (FFSA).

Photo by Stéphane Azémard / EURO-RACECAR