Kajto is up for a challenging Circuit and raring to go
Poland's European rally championship leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz says he has an extra incentive to fight for victory on the Circuit of Ireland which begins from Belfast City Hall on Thursday evening.
"A lot of Polish people live here and my sister has been in Ireland for the past few years. I always fight to win because I love rallies but it is additional motivation for me," says the four-time Polish champion, who has even had a new crash helmet specially designed for Irish debut.
'Kajto' dominated the opening round of the 2015 ERC series in Austria and tops the standings, five points ahead of Ireland's Craig Breen and Frenchman Robert Consani. But he acknowledges the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit represents a fresh challenge for him.
"Six months have passed since Tour de Corse, the previous tarmac round of the European Championship, so I miss driving on asphalt. I know that we have to stay extremely focused and prepare ourselves well before we fight on very complicated stages around Belfast," he said.
"From what I heard you cannot imagine a more beautiful and demanding rally for the driver. The stages are narrow, extremely fast and bumpy, full of jumps - so we will spend a lot of time in the air!
"This rally is also a huge challenge for our Ford Fiesta R5. On long straights the power of the cars is extremely important and a bumpy surface is a big test for suspension. We will do our best to extract everything from our car and use our strengths to build up confidence on stages which are completely new to us.
"But I can't tell you what the result will be just as I couldn't predict the score between the Irish and Polish football teams who played on Sunday but like them I am ready to fight for the win. Maybe I can do a little better…"
And Kajto (below), who is supported by the same Polish oil company Lotos, which backs Robert Kubica in the World championship, said he has prepared a special surprise for Polish and Irish supporters as well as his sister.
He will wear a helmet designed especially for this event, featuring the Polish and Irish colours, combined with symbols of the two countries, an eagle and a leprechaun. It also has a portrait of his Irish-exiled sister on the back.
An advanced driving instructor and an adviser on road safety for the Polish government, Kajetanowicz is highly rated by rally favourite Breen even though he beat the Pole in the previous round in Latvia.
"He will definitely be a force to be reckoned with - he's an experienced driver, very strong on tarmac and he'll be a big threat," said Breen, who starts the rally with No.1 on the door of his Peugeot Academy 208 T16.
Many of the overseas crews arrived in Belfast at the weekend including glamour model/driver Inessa Tushkanova and a number had test sessions scheduled yesterday.
But Scottish champion Euan Thorburn got his preparations under way early by contesting the Midland Moto Rally on Sunday in his R5 Ford Fiesta. After a cautious start, he picked up his pace to finish in the top 10.
Impressive, too, was ERC Junior championship leader Emil Berkquist, who finished 20th in his little R2 Opel Adam. His German Opel team-mate Marijan Griebel was 29th.