Former Top World Superbike Racer Stephane Mertens Returns To Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March, 2, 2002)& ...
Former Top World Superbike Racer Stephane Mertens Returns To Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March, 2, 2002)– It's been 16 years, but Stephane Mertens finally made it back to Daytona International Speedway. The former top World Superbike rider from Belgium is racing in the Championship Cup Series races this weekend in preparation for next week's Daytona 200 By Arai and Superstock races.
A chance meeting at a bar in Japan last summer led to Mertens' return to Daytona.
"Last year during the Suzuka Eight Hour, I met Dick Suarez of Full Spectrum Racing," said Mertens in surprisingly strong English. "We talked and I told him I would like to come over and race Daytona again he said he would put something together. We talked again this winter and worked everything out."
Mertens last raced at Daytona in 1986 and finished a disappointing ninth in the 250 Grand Prix final after being forced to start last while the rest of the field was underway.
"My team refueled my bike after the warm-up lap and the officials said I didn't get back to the starting grid in time," Mertens said. "I was pretty upset because I thought I could get a podium finish, but today it's many years later and
"I'm having a good time racing here again."
After his first Daytona appearance Mertens went on to become one of the leading World Superbike racers of the late-1980s. In 1989, he rode a Honda and had the championship nearly sewn up before a brake problem in the final round cost him the championship in heart-breaking fashion. American Fred Merkel ended up winning the title by just a few points over Mertens.
Mertens retired from World Superbike competition after the 1994 season after tallying 11 career wins in the series. While he's cut back somewhat from the grueling World Superbikes schedule, Mertens has remained active racing in World Motorcycle Endurance events and the BMW Boxer Cup exhibition series, which we won last year.
At 42, Mertens is expecting nothing more than enjoying his time back in Daytona.
"I'll have a competitive bike for the Superstock class and I'll race that same bike in the 200. Of course riding a Superstock bike against the Superbikes means I won't be competing for first place, but I will try to do my best and enjoy– that's why I'm here."
Tickets remain for all motorcycle events at Daytona International Speedway and can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.