|Intrepid Force Rotax announced their official driver line-up for 2009 at the first round of the Rotax Euro Challenge held on the weekend in Spain. The team once again has an international selection of drivers, but in a complete turnaround from the previous season, has tilted more towards the Junior Max class in contrast. |
In the Rotax DD2 and Senior Max, IFR boasts the highest ranked drivers in both classes; with vice champion Dominik Kraihamer of Austria and multiple New Zealand champ Josh Hart who finished 3rd overall in the European event last year, respectively. They were extremely strong contenders at the 2008 Rotax Grand Finals and are naturally hot favourites going into this year’s series, following their recent performance.
In Junior Max, two very competitive Motorsport nations will be represented in the Salzburg-based team for the first time, as Germany’s Maximilian Gunkel and Jamie Dzyra from Great Britain debut at the Euro Challenge with IFR. It’s Maxi’s second season in the junior Rotax class but he has been competing as well in JICA and KF3, while for Jamie it’s a step up from Mini Max in 2009, after only one year out of Cadets. Collectively they are young drivers with talent and ideal candidates to achieve some great results in this field.
Austria will also have another lady driver in the championship, as they have done before, as IFR’s Corinna Kamper joins the boys as a newcomer on the international karting scene. Already part of the national squad for the past year, Cori is also familiar with standing on the podium after being the vice champ in her Club Championship, amongst other placings. The 14-year old is ultimately looking to gain from the desired experience at this level of racing.
Dominik Kraihamer had nothing short of a brilliant year in 2009, taking the vice champion’s trophy to the soon-to-be World DD2 title holder, then finishing 4th at the Grand Finals in Italy. Adding to his racing portfolio, he was also one of the youngest rookies at 18 years in the competitive FIA European GT3 championship last season. To get back into the seat, Dominik has been testing in Italy with the latest model Intrepid DD2 kart.
“I'm really looking forward to the first Euro round in Spain. The level of the competition will be pretty high and although Leeroy [Poulter] is not driving this season, there are a lot of fast, young drivers which all have the same goal; to win every single race and become the champion. It's not going to be easy, but I know I can be fast. Being totally focused, working with the kart, having the ambition for racing and a bit of luck, I'm sure I'll be able to achieve my own personal goal to win. It will be interesting to see who has been testing during the winter, though I'm confident we're well prepared. There's no pressure, only what I put on myself, but it’s good and will no doubt help me to give my best.”
22-year old Josh Hart achieved practically the best possible result he could in 2008, after competing in only three rounds of the Euro Challenge last year in Senior Max and finishing an incredible third overall. The Kiwi was offered the unique opportunity by IFR to contest the series and didn’t disappoint, beaten only by undisputed winner Chris Lock and new World number one Ben Cooper, who have both now made the move to the CIK KF2 class. This season Hart will live in Austria, working closely with his team to support their younger and less experienced drivers, while pursuing his Euro campaign. Following his first race of the 2009 calendar in Spain last month, Josh’s test program has included Zuera, that will host the opening Euro round and some track time at Lonato, in Italy.
“After the testing we have done so far this year, I am confident in the new Intrepid chassis. I enjoy driving it and it responds well to changes. I really think the standard of drivers is likely to be even higher this year at the Euro, so it’s going to be a huge challenge, but something I am really looking forward to. I have been training hard in the lead-up and the team is organised for the first round, so I believe we can achieve a good result. After finishing 3rd in 2008, I’m certain we’re definitely in with a strong chance.”
The oldest of the junior line-up is Maximilian Gunkel, who’s just turned 15 years and lives near Frankfurt in Germany. He started his racing career in 2002 and has enjoyed some notable successes, of which include a personal highlight of finishing in the top 5 at Templin 2007 in JICA, 6th in the German Rotax Max Challenge in 2008, along with 3rd overall in the German KF3 Championship. Maxi showed some real potential at a recent test day with IFR and now has his sights set on winning the European junior title.
English driver Jamie Dzyra is just 13 and comes from Cheshire in the north-west of the country. He also began karting at the age of 8, claiming the Gold Cup in his first season as a Cadet in 2004, progressing to take 2nd at the final round of the 2007 Super 1 series, then added another 2nd at the Super Prix in Mini Max in 2008. Last year was Jamie’s introduction to Max racing, which he topped-off by finishing 9th in the British Championship. The whole ‘race team and Euro experience’ is all entirely new for him.
Corinna Kamper finished just outside the top 10 at Karting Campillos, Spain in the 2008 Rotax Winter Cup, but was consistently setting some quick laptimes to be well within the reach of the front-runners. As her second full year racing in juniors, Cori knows it’s not going to be easy-going when it comes to the fierce competition, however, is excited about being part of what is considered one of the best series for Max racing there is.
IFR’s Team manager Ernst Penninger is feeling extremely positive in announcing his Euro drivers, suggesting they have brought together a key combination. “I think this year we’ve got one of our strongest line-ups ever from a driver and mechanic perspective. I really believe that we have a good chance to finish within the top 5 in every class. I’ve never been as sure about being able to be as competitive as I am this year. Still, I like to underestimate a bit. Anyway, I really think we should be there... see how we go!”
With regard to the technical members of the team, IFR also welcomes the mechanics who will work in partnership with the 2009 Euro Challenge drivers:
Werner Leroch (Aut) – Dominik Kraihamer
Steve Chapman (GB) – Josh Hart
Martin Reuvers (Neth) – Maximilian Gunkel
Aldo Fattore (IT) – Jamie Dzyra
Darren Grounds (GB) – Corinna Kamper
More details about the new Force Unleashed can be found on IFR’s official team homepage at www.intrepidforcerotax.com with ongoing news updates also online at www.racetogetthere.com