EU Megane: Zolder round one preview

Candidates galore for 2006 title! Who will succeed the first Eurocup Megane Trophy winner, Jan Heylen, as this year's champion? One of the "old hands" such as Ludovic Badey, Cesar Campanico, Frederic Gabillon or Renaud Kuppens? Or perhaps a ...

Candidates galore for 2006 title!

Who will succeed the first Eurocup Megane Trophy winner, Jan Heylen, as this year's champion? One of the "old hands" such as Ludovic Badey, Cesar Campanico, Frederic Gabillon or Renaud Kuppens? Or perhaps a newcomer, like Jaap Van Lagen, Jean-Philippe Dayraut, Justin Keen or Luigi Ferrara? It is anyone's guess who will be this year's winner. And that is great news for race fans!

While the 2005 line-up may have been exciting, the 2006 Eurocup Megane Trophy field is something else. Although some driver places remain up for grabs at the time of writing, the ones that have been confirmed bode well for an exciting opening weekend!

The Belgian drivers will be motivated to get their season off to a good start in front of their home crowd by getting involved from the outset in the fight to succeed their fellow countryman Jan Heylen, who is now racing in Champ Car.

Although Jeffrey Van Hooydonk, fourth last season, is not yet confirmed at Racing for Belgium, Wim Coekelberg's team is certain to stick with Cesar Campanico. Fifth last year, the Portuguese driver will be going all out to help the Belgian team to retain its title. Meanwhile, Thierry Boutsen Racing will once again be enlisting the services of Renaud Kuppens. The man from Liege will line up in Zolder alongside the familiar face of Kurt Mollekens. Not content with his behind-the-scenes role as a World Series Formula Renault 3.5 team manager, the KTR boss will get back behind the wheel of the Megane race car, something that he tends to like doing now and again since his retirement from racing in F3000!

Zolder is also a circuit that is well-liked by the Dutch drivers. Former World Series driver Jaap Van Lagen will be the team leader for Verschuur, who are also entering Jeroen Reijntjens and Bernhard Ten Brinke.

Other experienced drivers from 2005, who are also potential candidates for the title, will be determined to make a strong start this year. One such driver is Ludovic Badey, who ended 2005 on a high, recording four consecutive wins at the end of last season. The Lyonnais has now moved to a new team, TDS, managed by Xavier Combet. Another promising French driver, Frederic Gabillon (Team Lompech) is determined to put his unlucky 2005 season behind him and rejoin the leading group, as he did in the Clio V6 Trophy!

Among the fresh faces, a few names stand out from the rest. Jean-Philippe Dayraut, 2001 French Touring Car Champion, has signed for Epsilon Euskadi. He will line up alongside James Kirkpatrick. British driver Justin Keen will be the number one driver for TP Competition/Moteur Huger. The team tested several drivers last week for their number two car, but a decision has yet to be announced. Defending Italian F3 Champion Luigi Ferrara will be lead driver for Oregon Team. Swiss Formula Renault 2.0 Champion Ralph Meichtry (Race Performance) will be another name to watch!

The Junior category (drivers under 25) looks set to be just as close as the main championship. Portuguese driver Pedro Petiz, Marc Benz's replacement at Iris Racing, should be squaring up to a trio of French drivers: Matthieu Lahaye (Tech 1 Racing), Sebastien Dhouailly (Team Lompech) and Mathieu Cheruy (Energy Racing).

We should also not forget about the half dozen gentlemen drivers who will also add some spice to the racing action: Andreas Mayerl, Pierre Hirschi, Rafael Unzurrunzaga, Pascal Ballay, Victor Fernandez and Luis Llobet are all up for a second season of fun!

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Series Formula Renault
Drivers Justin Keen , Jan Heylen , Cesar Campanico , Kurt Mollekens , Ludovic Badey , Sebastien Dhouailly , Victor Fernandez , Renaud Kuppens , Marc Benz , Pedro Petiz , Andreas Mayerl , Frédéric Gabillon , Pascal Ballay , Luigi Ferrara , Rafael Unzurrunzaga , Jean-Philippe Dayraut , Matthieu Lahaye , Bernhard Ten Brinke , Ralph Meichtry , Pierre Hirschi