J-WRC: Burkart aims for the top

as Junior season begins in Turkey

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By www.wrc.com

9 April 2010 - 15:48
J-WRC: Burkart aims for the top

The Junior World Rally Championship season kicks-off on Rally of Turkey with one driver in particular determined to make a lasting impression on the young driver series. His name is Aaron Burkart and 2010 will represent an important milestone for the Suzuki Sport Europe driver.

A mainstay in the J-WRC since 2006, Burkart is now 27 and will be too old for the series after this season. Therefore he will start his five-event campaign in the knowledge that 2010 will represent his last chance to claim the coveted title.

He’s been close before, finishing second in 2008 and third in 2009, when he also claimed his first victory in the category. But Burkart believes he has never had a better chance to win the crown, even though he concedes he will face a tough fight for honours. “My place in the Suzuki team has changed for this year,” says the German. “Before I was just a driver but now I am able to do the testing and development, which is good for my reputation but also for my self-confidence.”

With four of the six rounds predominately on asphalt, Burkart accepts he will have his work cut out in his new role. “We all know the Suzuki Swift is very fast on gravel but on Tarmac there is still some work to do with improving the suspension, which we have to make specific for Tarmac,” says Burkart. “But by working with the engineers I think this can be possible. It is a very important year for me and of course my aim is to win the title but I realise it’s not going to be easy.”

Burkart points to the opposition he will face from several rivals, including the KNAF Talent First-backed Dutch drivers Kevin Abbring and Hans Weijs Jr, and Belgian rising star Thierry Neuville, whom Burkart rates very highly following his debut in a Super 2000 car last year.

After completing the 2009 season with co-driver Michael Koelbach, Burkart will be reunited with Andre Kachel for 2010. They made their WRC debut together on ADAC Rallye Deutschland back in 2003 and Burkart hopes the relationship will flourish once again. “Michael and I worked together for several years and felt it was time for a break,” says Burkart. “There was no problem, just something new to try, and I worked well with Andre when we were younger competing in the German championship.”

This year’s J-WRC will include a round in Bulgaria, which appears in the WRC for the first time. Burkart says this will add to the challenge facing the crews during the year ahead.

“Bulgaria is a new rally but also other events will have big changes, such as Turkey and France,” says Burkart. “My experience will only help me so much because I don’t know these rallies although I will be in a better situation than the younger drivers because I have developed a good pacenote system after all this time.”

Organisers have received 10 registrations for the J-WRC this season, with eight crews nominating Turkey as one of their five scoring rounds. The race to follow in the footsteps of former champions, such as Dani Sordo, Sebastien Ogier and Per-Gunnar Andersson is about to begin.

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