Norfolk’s Comtec rookies Danny McKenzie, Daniel de Jong ready for World Series by Renault
Carleton Rode's Comtec Racing are hoping their two rookies will make big strides as they prepare for the new World Series season.
The Norfolk outfit, which grew from the Van Diemen works team, will have promising Poole racer Danny McKenzie and Dutch youngster Daniel de Jong behind their two 3.5-litre Renaults for the 2011 championship, which starts at Motorland, west of Barcelona, next weekend. Last year saw the 2006 champions finish fifth thanks to a collection of Stefano Coletti podiums, while Greg Mansell – son of ex-F1 world champion Nigel, struggled to get going.
This season the competition will be even tougher, with last year's runner-up Daniel Ricciardo – who impressed in F1 testing with Red Bull during the winter – just the tip of a talented World Series iceberg.
'Last season was fairly successful for the team – Stefano was only two points off fourth and he had quite a lot of rookie and full blown podiums, so we had quite a good season really,' said Comtec team boss John Barnett.
'This will definitely be a difficult year because there are some very good drivers that have been in it for the last couple of seasons that will give us a run for our money.
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'We've just got to keep plugging away and make sure by the end of the season we are challenging for top spots.
'I think it is going to be the strongest year that we've had for a long while in World Series. It's going to be very competitive.
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'We started in 2006 and we've had a few wins since then, lots of podiums, but it would be nice to win the championship again.'
McKenzie, 22, makes the step up from Formula Three and has high hopes for the season – and he admitted it had been a long winter.
'For the first week or two you enjoy the down time and collect your thoughts; but after that you want to be out again, you need to be in the car and it starts to play on your mind – are you going to get rusty?' said McKenzie.
'When you actually do get out there again it brushes off pretty quickly, but that time is painful. Things seem to move very slowly.
'It's going to be a tough year, there's no two ways about it – but I've got to finish races consistently and then fight for podiums after a few rounds, which would be pretty fantastic.
'If I keep chipping away then you just don't know what could happen. While I want to win the series, you've got to be realistic. There some extremely talented guys out there who have got a year on you.
'To come in and think I'm going to blow everybody away is a bit naive. I've got to take it step by step.'
As for De Jong, the 18-year-old Dutchman is following the path of GP2 driver and fellow countryman Giedo van der Garde, who won the World Series with Comtec's Norfolk rivals P1 Motorsport. His step is a little smaller than his new team-mate: from the Renault 2l series.
'This year the competition is really high,' said De Jong. 'But then if the championship is of a low level and you win, yes you feel happy.
'But if the standard is really high and then you win, then you are really proud of yourself. That's why I'm going to like this season.'