Speaking of the move, Rick Dreezen told The Racebox :

“I’m really excited to be back with Dino. He’s the man who made me European champion when nobody believed in our project and I still have lots of respect for him. As the World Championship is literally five minutes from my home, becoming World Champion would be a dream come true, as it’s also the only title I’m missing in my career. Realistically it will be more difficult as the preparation time is very short to adapt and get everything on point. But I’m convinced with the intelligence of Dino, I will have a strong package for the World Championship and let’s hope that the luck, which you always need in these kind of races, will fall on my side.”

Rick Dreezen European Champion 2014.Lonato, 26 July 2014. CIK FIA European Championship for KZ, © 2014, Alexandros Vernardis / The RaceBox.

The Belgian has had an illustrious career thus far winning titles that include the KZ European Championship, WSK Euro Series, SKUSA Pro Tour, German Kart Championship and the Winter Cup.

Dreezen hasn’t won these titles under one factory, in fact his success with Birel ART was in the States as he won the SKUSA Pro Tour. Away from that Dreezen has been with a number major factories at some point in his career including CRG Holland, Tonykart, Zanardi and even had a stint with Ricciardo Kart before going to Birel ART Racing and ending at Birel ART KSW.

The Belgian will now add another factory to a growing list in the shape of Kart Republic (KR). Although the chassis will be a new challenge for the 27-year-old, the team will be familiar. Dreezen won the European title with Dino Chiesa and Zanardi back in 2014 who has since kept the team very similar albeit with a different kart.

Rick Dreezen at the World Cup with Tony Kart.Varennes, 20 September 2013. CIK FIA World Cup for KZ, © 2013, Alexandros Vernardis / The RaceBox.

Does the move come as a surprise?

The announcement was made promptly after the European Championship had finished, which would suggest Dreezen had already been planning for the World Championship. The KR chassis had just the one pilot at Lonato in the shape of Mirko Torsellini (ITA) who finished an impressive 8th in the final. With a teammate and more luck that certainly could have been a much better result!

With the World Championship on home soil (Genk, Belgium) for only the second time in history, Dreezen will be desperate for victory. The chassis has been cleaning up in the OK class with Hannes Janker and Lorenzo Travisanutto and has had strong representation in the Junior class with Taylor Barnard.

We cannot leave out IAME engines from this equation either. Speaking to the FIA magazine, Dino Chiesa explained the partnership with IAME and the investment that KR could be making into the class for next year. Which probably makes the move all make sense.

“We don’t really have something against the category [KZ], don’t forget we won the 2014 European Championship and finished third in the World Championship with Rick Dreezen, Dino said. It’s always been a matter of focus and time for the team, but already in Lonato we showed our speed with Torsellini, and now with the new homologation of engines we will for sure invest a lot more next year in this category together with IAME.”

Rick Dreezen with his Las Vegas special FreeM suit at the 2015 SKUSA Supernationals. Taking part in both S1 category he was taken out on the first corner but still won the title that year. He also was a front runner in the KZ2 category.Las Vegas, 22 November 2015. SKUSA Supernational, © 2015, Alexandros Vernardis / The RaceBox.

How has the move affected the paddock?

Dreezen’s place at Birel ART was quickly filled by fellow Belgian Jonathan Thonon. It’s exciting to see the 31-year-old back after what has been a very short break from the sport full time and it will give Belgian fans another driver to cheer for at the World Championship. Thonon has won multiple WSK and FIA titles in his career, which include the CIK-FIA World Cup four times and the European Championship back in 2008. All of which he won in the KZ1 class! That is certainly something that should get the local fans excited as he looks to add a fifth World title to his name. Thonon will be piloting the Birel for the first time having previously raced with Praga, CRG and GP.

What can we expect at the World Championship?

With a new equation thrown into the mix, it’s certainly going to be even more exciting than it already was. There’ll certainly be a lot of eyes on Dreezen to see how he fares with the KR chassis and IAME engine!

Rick Dreezen and mechanic at the 2017 Winter Cup with BirelART KSW. © 2017, Alexandros Vernardis / The RaceBox.

Interview and text: Chris McCarthy

Photos: Alex Vernardis