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Junqueira and Labonte set for SpeedFest NASCAR showdown

Friday, June 09 2017

Stateside racing veterans Bruno Junqueira and Bobby Labonte are set for a busy two days' NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES) action at Brands Hatch's American SpeedFest this weekend (10-11 June) after both made their series debut in today's (Friday) practice sessions around the world-famous Indy circuit.

Brazilian ex single-seater ace Junqueira, who qualified on pole position for the Indy 500 in 2002, is making his NASCAR debut, whilst 53-year-old Labonte is making his first competitive appearance in the UK at 53 years of age.

The pair will race in his weekend's two Elite 1 NWES races, with a race on both Saturday and Sunday, with the latter acting as the event's showpiece, complete with an opening ceremony and post-race Victory Lane celebrations in the spectator areas.

Ahead of his first appearance at Brands Hatch since 2007, multiple Champ Car World Series race-winner Junqueira said of his first experience in the car: "It was completely different. I like Paddock Hill Bend, it's cool and the two left-handers [at Graham Hill Bend and Surtees] are nice. It's nice to be back racing in England.

"It's completely different - last weekend I raced a prototype which has downforce and grip and come to this which moves a lot, but it's fun still racing and competing. It's impossible to say where I'll be this weekend. We don't know how good my car is and it's impossible for me set up my expectations. My expectations are to do my best and to have fun. The idea is to do this one and see - let's see how it goes, let's do one step at a time!"

Labonte, who is a total newcomer to Brands Hatch, added: "I hope it doesn't rain - that would be bad!

"It's 30 minutes [in the car so far] and I'm not used to having just 30 minutes to figure it out so it seemed like it got better throughout the practice. I came in, did a couple of things, went back out in the second session. It's totally different to what I've driven before, they don't quite driver the same. It does in a way, but the last time I drove our cars they were really stuck to the race track better than these are.

"The circuit is beautiful, it's awesome. It's not that big but it's still fun. Turn one is like oooh - It's not too blind, but you don't know where to go, there's a bump and it's kind of off camber so you get a good drift on it. Everything's got its own challenge, the slow corner, [Graham Hill Bend], is like freaking hard then the little S part, it's different. I'm here to have a good time first then we'll see how everything goes!"

Photo: Gary Hawkins

Tickets for American SpeedFest V at Brands Hatch are available on the gate on both Saturday and Sunday. Visit www.speedfest.co.uk for more information.