Belgian rallycross TouringCar driver Patrick Mertens has announced his return to the category for the 2014 FIA European Rallycross Championship, driving a brand new VW Polo.
Mertens sat out last season while his team built the new car, which he revealed in his hometown, Tielen, in Belgium. “We have spent a total of almost two years on the construction of this Polo,” said Mertens. “It is totally new, there were a lot of new ideas in the build of the car. We did consider building a BMW, it would probably have been less work because they are rear-wheel-drive as standard, but we decided to stick with Volkswagen. We think the Polo will be quick.”
The experienced driver has targets for the season ahead, but is also realistic about the strength of the competition; “I’d like to finish in the top five or six of the European championship, and hopefully get a podium or two during the season. But, there are a lot of fast drivers in TouringCar, especially from Scandinavia, so it will not be an easy task to finish on the podium. The first event in Portugal will give us a better idea about where we stand.”
Having not competed last season, Mertens is excited about the prospect of racing in RallycrossRX for the first time, and feels the exposure brought by high profile drivers entering the FIA World Rallycross Championship has benefitted teams and drivers throughout the field; “The professional approach of IMG is brilliant, they have brought a very high level of attention to rallycross. We had never had seen that before last season. The attention the sport is getting before this season has even started is a lot higher than ever before, thanks to the announcement and commitment of some top drivers. Even for me as a low-budget driver you benefit from that. It is clear to everybody that IMG has lifted and still is lifting rallycross to new levels.”
Mertens is also excited to be racing in his home country in 2014; “For my sponsors it’s brilliant to have a home event and besides that, it means a lot as a Belgian to be racing at a World Championship event in my own country”
Testing of the new car will commence in the coming weeks, including outings at the first rounds of the Belgian and British national championships, at Massmechelen (March 2) and Lydden Hill (March 29 – 30) respectively, ahead of the European Championship season opener at Montalegre in Portugal (May 3 – 4).
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