Born in the wrong country
- Arjan de Roos, Mattijs Diepraam
- June 13, 2002 (introduction previously published in the 8W June 1998 issue)
- Carel Godin de Beaufort - The last knight of Grand Prix racing, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Gijs van Lennep - As smooth as aristocrats can be, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Huub Rothengatter - Managed himself and Jos into F1, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Jos Verstappen - Dutch courage: the unfulfilled promise of Jos Verstappen, by Dan Moakes
1992 Japanese GP
This is the sight of F1's most amazing comeback story. If you think no man can boast a ten-year gap in his F1 credentials, you're wrong. Jan Lammers can. And his F1 comeback after a decade of absence is just one part of a very colourful motor racing career, including a European F3 championship at the tender age of 22, two Le Mans 24 Hour wins, and an F3000 drive at 39 years of age!
In fact, at the dawn of his career, which saw a school boy fooling around with Rob Slotemaker's Camaro fleet at his godfather's driving school, "Jantje" ("Little John") was regarded as a unique talent. The teenager, who later never managed to shed his boyish looks, was soon to be found mixing it with the best in Euro F3. After winning the championship in 1978 he was picked by the reformed Shadow team - together with another talented youngster, Elio De Angelis. The new DN9 was a terrible car however, so the two rarely had the opportunity to shine. In his fierce-looking Samson-sponsored "Lion's Roar" car Lammers was on a par with De Angelis. But while Elio went on to Lotus, a Grand Prix win and two third places in the World Championship, Lammers had to make do with inferior material from ATS (and still qualified an amazing 4th at Long Beach in 1980), Ensign and Theodore before bowing out of F1 and moving onto a highly successful career in sportscars - first with Richard Lloyd's private Canon Porsche team, then with Jaguar.
He surprised many (including himself) by signing up with March at the end of 1992, with an option on a full season in '93. But the once great marque from Bicester was on a tightrope already and fell off just after the Australian GP. After that, Lammers tried his hand on touring cars with TWR Volvo and F3000 with Vortex before going back to sportscars with the Hezemans team.
Jan now fields his own sportscar team in the FIA Sportscar Championship, sharing a Dome-Judd S101 with Belgian Val Hillebrand. Showing that he hasn't lost any of his touch Jan was usually the fastest car of the field in 2001, with cruel luck limiting his amount of victories to just one. He is among the hot favourites for the 2002 title.
Jan Lammers is born on 2 June 1956 in Zandvoort. In his early years he is already found working at Rob Slotemaker's driving school, the school owner at the time already being a living legend as a racing driver. Soon the youngster not only has to wet the skid track and clean the cars, he is also urged to demonstrate his skills on the slippery track next to the circuit in his hometown. It takes no time for Rob to discover his pupil's talents, and Jan quickly develops into the skid school's icon. Still barely capable of looking over his steering wheel, he wins the yearly racing school course at Zandvoort and Jan is set for his debut in motor racing.
In 1973, from his first start on, at only 16 years of age and still without a driver's license, Jan Lammers is Zandvoort's new sensation. Quickly baptised Jantje ("Little John"), he drives the Simca of mentor Rob Slotemaker to a win in his very first race in Group 1 touring cars. It is the first of four wins that will make him the youngest Dutch touring car champion ever.
After two more seasons in touring cars Jan has become a national phenomena. The nineteen-year-old now starts focusing strongly on formula racing cars.
For 1976 Lammers enters Formula Ford and proves to be an instant success. In Holland as well as Europe he surprises everybody in his Crossle. The touring-car wonder boy grabs pole position at his first race, wins the Jyllandring and Mengen International Races and shines again at the soaking wet finale of the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch in England. Dovetailing F Ford with a touring car programme he gets even by winning three races in an Opel GTE, going on to take the second Dutch championship that had previously eluded him through disqualification and mechanical failures.
The following year Jan moves to England to drive for the Hawke factory team in the European Formula 3 Championship. However, the Hawke is no match for the Marches and Ralts but Jan is quick to learn during this European tour: he finishes third at Zolder in a German Championship race.
In 1978 he heads the revived Racing Team Holland, with Huub Rothengatter and Arie Luyendijk as team mates. It's the start of his international breakthrough. At the wheel of a Ralt-Toyota he starts the season as winner of the first race for the German Championship at Zolder and subsequently wins the first European Championship race at Zandvoort. More wins follow at Magny-Cours and Karlskoga. Second places at Dijon, the old Nürburgring, Kassel-Calden and Knutsdorp make him a clear favourite in this ultra-competitive championship, with Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet as his most important rivals. Jan then goes on to win the famous Lotteria di Monza with a starting grid of over 50 Formula 3 drivers. Despite being rammed off the track during the finale at Vallelunga, he becomes the first (and last) Dutchman to win the European Formula 3 title. Leading British magazine Autosport predicts: "He just has to be a World Champion of the eighties."
Even before Jan secures the title he receives an offer from the March F2 factory team while during the summer the Shadow team invites him for his first Formula 1 test. At Silverstone he drives Clay Regazzoni's Shadow-Ford. He impresses team manager Joe Ramirez and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza he signs his first Formula 1 contract. Meanwhile, he demonstrates his versatility during a special event at Zandvoort. In one day he participates in four different races (touring and formula cars), landing on the rostrum four times, three times the winner.
In 1979, at the age of 22, Jan Lammers makes his F1 debut with help of sponsor Samson. Together with team mate Elio de Angelis, who is also fresh from Formula 3, he is given the heavy duty to tame the hopeless Shadow DN9. The team that won the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix has a shortage of funds and lost their best engineers to Arrows. The DN9 is neither tested nor improved and Jan and Elio also have to struggle with Goodyear's worst tyres, as the Akron company only supplies selected top teams with their fastest rubber.
Against the odds, the debutants make a fine impression. Lammers puts the car 14th on the grid at Long Beach but at the start he and Lauda are knocked out by Tambay's airborne McLaren. His best race result is 9th position in Montréal. Despite the fact that Jan and Elio are far from satisfied with the Shadow and their results, both are invited by Colin Chapman to join Lotus in 1979 winter testing at Paul Ricard. De Angelis is prepared to bring a huge amount of funds to the 1978 World Champion team. Jan does not await Chapman's decision and signs a deal with German team ATS.
However, ATS is uncapable of preparing two new cars for the first few races of the 1980 season, so Jan has to wrestle the old and heavy and - by 1980 standards - slow D3. Then his unfortunate team mate Marc Surer breaks both his legs during practice at Kyalami. This means that Jan gets to drive the new D4 at Long Beach. He delivers a straight sensation: near the end of final qualifying he is in pole position, to finally take 4th on the grid for the US West Grand Prix. To this day this remains the best starting position ever for a Dutch Formula 1 driver, even outshining Verstappen and his Benetton-Ford. But due to a broken axle Jan's great opportunity for a podium finish is gone after just 100 yards into the race.
This is the beginning of an impressive run of races with the bland ATS. At Zolder he embarrasses Ferrari by fighting almost the entire race with the World Champion, Jody Scheckter. Sadly, his points-scoring opportunity fades away after 64 laps as his gearbox gives up. At Monaco Jan has to make a long pitstop after being hit at the start by a flying Daly. He salvages the situation by managing to finish tenth while setting eighth fastest lap. At Jarama he performs a monster start from tenth on the grid to be sixth into the first corner. He looks en route for a podium but his engine seizes.
Then his F1 career makes a turn for the worse. Marc Surer has recovered from his injury and claims back his rightful seat, leaving Jan to take up an offer to join Ensign. In hindsight this is a bad decision because Mo Nunn's team has by far the worst car on the grid. Lammers has great difficulties in qualifying the Ensign-Ford N180. He can only start in three races while his former Shadow team mate Elio de Angelis has a promising debut season for Lotus.
Jan has better fortunes in the BMW M1 Procar series. This series is mostly organised during Grand Prix weekends and sees many F1 drivers such as Jones, Lauda, Pironi and Piquet taking part. Lammers wins the first race at Donington, finishes second at Avus and the Norisring, starts from pole position at Monaco and is the title favourite until Stuck rams him off the track at Imola. At Zandvoort Jan has his only appearance in the European F2 Championship and retires his March-BMW in third position from engine failure.
For 1981 Nelson Piquet wants Jan to be his team mate at Brabham. Team principal Bernie Ecclestone invites him over for a test but has already secretly chosen to go for Hector Rebaque's millions. Jan, without a sponsor, returns to ATS and shines at Kyalami. At the start he shoots into an amazing third position, but brake problems cause him to fall off the track during his fight for second with Elio de Angelis. Then Jan has to move over for Slim Borgudd as the Swede arrives at ATS with a healthy budget supplied by pop band Abba.
Jan returns to Formula 1 for the Belgium Grand Prix, but once again he is forced to step into an inferior car. The Theodore-Ford of eccentric Hong Kong resident Teddy Yip even has to stay on nude rims for a day at Monaco because the team doesn't get any tyres. But Jan manages to achieve some unlikely feats in the car, which is duly noticed by the top teams. Renault asks him to replace the injured Prost at Detroit, but the championship leader recovers in time. Jan is prepared to step into the Theodore again but before the start of the first session Ferrari approaches him to replace Gilles Villeneuve from Zandvoort on. In a twist of fate, the Theodore's throttle sticks during the session, with Jan hitting the wall and breaking his thumb. As a result, Patrick Tambay signs the Ferrari contract. At Zandvoort, instead of driving the Ferrari, Jan takes part in his last Grand Prix before Tommy Byrne's money relieves him of the dreadful Theodore. Meanwhile, Jan is a regular in the Renault 5 Turbo Cup, winning and finishing on the podium several times.
No longer willing to drive inferior cars in F1, Jan signs a contract with Richard Lloyd to drive the RLR Porsche 956 in the FIA World Sportscar Championship. Together with Thierry Boutsen, Jonathan Palmer and Keke Rosberg he clinches several podium finishes. His Le Mans debut ends with a sixth-place finish. However, This wasn't the first time Jan visited Le Mans. As his mentor Slotemaker was one of the stunt drivers for Steve McQueen's Le Mans movie, Jan actually drove at Le Mans in 1970. But as the little boy could not look over the dash and reach the throttle at the same time, Slotemaker had to do the steering while Jan could see the speed as the trees flashed by on the Mulsanne straight... Still in Renault 5 Turbo Cup, Jan dominates the European championship with several wins.
In 1984 Jan, now permanently paired with Jonathan Palmer, drives the Canon Porsche to victory at Brands Hatch in a championship dominated by the Rothmans factory Porsches, before writing history by flying to Spa-Francorchamps directly after the race to win the Renault 5 Turbo race - one of eight wins that led to his third European title. In the World Sportscar Championship Jan becomes one of the best drivers, with podiums at Monza, the Nürburgring, Sandown Park and Imola. At Le Mans the Canon Porsche retires from a winning position. At the end of the season Jan tests Ayrton Senna's Toleman-Hart at Estoril but negotiations with the team bear no fruit, as Toleman is unable to get a tyre contract for the 1985 season.
Just before Le Mans Jan leaves the Canon Porsche team unsatisfied. Tom Walkinshaw is quick to sign Jan for the new TWR Jaguar sportscar team. Jan is immediately the man of the race on a very hot Shah Alam track in Malaysia where he brings home his Jag in second place. Despite the fact that he has to miss several races, Jan hits the headlines in the European Championship for the new Renault Alpine V6 Turbo, with a third consecutive win at Monaco and wins at Monza and Vallelunga. In between Jan makes his debut in the IMSA GTP series, the American equivalent of the sportscar world championship, racing a March-Buick at Miami with Roberto Guerrero.
Then comes his magnificent debut in the Indy Car World Series. Through his performance for the small Armstrong team he is headhunted by the Forsythe-Green team. Driving for the team in the last three races of the season he directly becomes a points scorer. At Miami Jan fights for victory with Danny Sullivan but shortly before the finish he slides off the track and is ultimately classified fifth. At the end of the season Jan stunts at Macau, where he beats a raft of new-generation drivers during the Formula 3 Grand Prix by finishing third.
Jan's 24-hour fame starts to gather pace in his Daytona debut in the 1986 race, driving the BF Goodrich Porsche 962. He is en route to a straight victory when his brakes suddenly fail. Jan escapes from an enormous crash and is lucky to be alive.
His remarkable Indy Car debut in 1985 doesn't go unnoticed, as Jan becomes the lead driver of Dan Gurney's Eagle team. Jan moves to the US but can't do better than score a few points with the poor Eagle. Gurney is equally disappointed in the car's performance and withdraws before the Indianapolis 500.
This leaves Tom Walkinshaw to strike again, as he brings Lammers back to Jaguar. Jan is immediately successful with a second at Spa and a fiercely fought-over third at Jerez. He also accepts an invitation from Eddie Jordan to drive the finale of the international Formula 3000 championship, and races for Nissan at Watkins Glen in the IMSA GTP series. Jan once again starts at Macau and repeats his third-place finish of the year before.
In 1987 Jan has become one of the leading drivers in the TWR Jaguar team and paired with John Watson, he wins the FIA World Sportscar Championship races at Jarama, Monza and Fuji as well as taking podiums at Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Spa. At Le Mans his team-mate Win Percy crashes spectacularly on the main straight as a tyre explodes during the night at nearly 400km/h. Team orders rule out a world title and he ends second in the championship. As an aside, Jan makes his debut in the Japanese Formula 3000 championship and immediately wins the Fuji race in a Dome March. He then goes one up at Macau by taking second in the season-closing Formula 3 traditional.
1988 develops into a very successful season for Jan. At Daytona he wins for Jaguar in the 24-hour race. After his own car retired Jan is switched to the other Jaguar to replace Raul Boesel. In the world championship Jan is paired with Johnny Dumfries to finish second at Spa and third at Brno. At Le Mans Jan his second 24-hour win of the season, as he writes racing history with Andy Wallace and Dumfries. Jan is behind the wheel for 13 of the 24 hours, and beats the ultra successful Porsches. Despite a broken gearbox he still brings home the Jaguar first!
It is the first win for Jaguar since 1957. Jan is invited in England at the Royal Palace and is rewarded with the title of Honorary Member of the BRDC, a title seldom rewarded to non-British citizens, with only such luminaries as Enzo Ferrari and Juan Manuel Fangio having received the honour. In the US there are other successes in the IMSA GTP championship: Jan wins not only at Daytona but also takes the Del Mar Grand Prix and podium finishes at West Palm Beach, Lime Rock, Mid Ohio and Sears Point. His last race in Macau ends with a sixth spot.
Jaguar has no chance in the 1989 World Championship against Mercedes. Jan only manages to score a second at Jarama with Patrick Tambay. The chance for a second win at Le Mans is lost after the gearbox fails. In the States Jan is more fortunate, winning in Portland and Del Mar and taking a second in the Daytona 24 hours, Lime Rock, Mid Ohio and Road America and third places at Sears Point and Topeka. Almost being handed a new F1 break, Jan is asked by Ken Tyrrell to replace Michele Alboreto in Formula 1, but Jan opts to stay with Jaguar and Tyrrell subsequently decides for Jean Alesi...
Jan wins the Daytona 24 hours for a second time in 1990, this time paired with Andy Wallace and Davy Jones. In the Sebring 12 hours Jan is third, while there is a second at Road Atlanta. The hastily built, 1400bhp turbo engine motor is no championship material for Jaguar. With the fast but unreliable engine Jan manages to finish second at Silverstone and Spa. At Le Mans Jaguar is once again unbeatable with their atmospheric V12 and even picks up a double. Due to a crash by team mate Franz Konrad Jan can only opt for second place.
Jan switches from Jaguar to Toyota for 1991. While waiting for the all-new Toyota sports car, Jan tests, develops and races the Dome F102, the first Dome-built Formula 3000 in the Japanese championship, with a best result a third at Suzuka.
In the 1992 world championship Jan has two podium finishes with Toyota, second at Suzuka and third at Magny-Cours. At Le Mans he DNFs but Jan does take fastest lap of the race. Here is he seen at the team's Le Mans test at Paul Ricard.
A real eye opener is his comeback in Formula 1, 10 years after his last Grand Prix - certainly a record! Jan replaces Karl Wendlinger at March, formerly known as Leyton House. At Zandvoort he breaks the lap record during a team presentation. At Suzuka he surprises everyone in a wet session by lapping sixth fastest. During the race he has to retire with a broken gearbox. At Adelaide he finishes 12th in the Australian Grand Prix. With Toyota Jan wins the All-Japan Sportscar Championship with victories at Fuji and Mine.
Two days before the first race of the 1993 season March definitively hits rock-bottom. Ilmor refuses to supply the team with engines as long as the bills for 1992 have not been paid. As sponsor money from his French team mate never arrives, Jan is a spectator at Kyalami and the team is broke. Jan evacuates to Formula 3000 and brings good results as a successor to Rubens Barrichello in the Il Barone Rampante team. His best result is a fourth spot at Enna-Pergusa. This team also has financial problems and folds before the end of the season. At Le Mans Jan finishes sixth for Toyota.
Jan returns to TWR to drive in the British Touring Car Championship for 1994 with the distinctive Volvo 850 Estate. It is a season of learning and developing, but Jan cannot be stopped bringing some firework to the tracks, especially at Brands Hatch. Meanwhile he gets a first test of Historic F1 by testing the cumbersome ex-Fushida Maki F101 at Snetterton.
Jan beats Kenny Brack and team-mate Tarso Marques to win the 1995 Formula 3000 Grand Prix at Kyalami with the Vortex team, owned by Dutch transport king Henny Vollenberg. He participates in three other races, at Silverstone, Barcelona and Pau, but when key members of the team leave, Jan steps out as well. At Sebring he wins the 12 hours with Andy Wallace in a Spice, but the time keeping has messed up and a Ferrari is announced as the winner. Jan tests the new Formula 1 car of successful F3000 team DAMS and is offered to drive for the team in 1996. DAMS however is unable to gather sufficient funds.
For the 1996 season Lotus signs Jan for their factory squad that will take part in the new GT1 sportscar world championship with the Esprit GT1. Jan steers the unreliable Lotus quickly to the head of the field: he leads at Jarama, finishes second at Silverstone and grabs pole position at the Nürburgring. At Le Mans he experiences the Courage, together with Derek Warwick and Mario Andretti, in a very turbulent race.
Then, at Zandvoort, Jan wins his first F1 Grand Prix! In the Williams FW06 he starts a Historic F1 race from pole to lead the field. He then enters the pit for a ten-second stand still and rejoins at the rear. Then he works his way back and regains the lead to win, beating amongst others Michael Bleekemolen in a Fittipaldi FD09.
The new Lotus Elise GT1 is no match in the 1997 world championship and in the Le Mans 24 hours the car gets soundly beaten by McLaren-BMW and Mercedes. After the Proton take-over, Lotus decides not to support the race team any longer. In the meantime Jan has already signed for the TWR Nissan team, which is determined to win Le Mans. For this Jan is a major player in the huge test program that TWR Nissan sets up, but Porsche nevertheless beats Nissan. Jan finishes sixth with Erik Comas and Andrea Montermini. At Zandvoort Jan celebrates 25 years in motor racing by setting a record for the Guinness Book of Record. In one day he takes part in all seven races of the event.
After his participation in the Suzuka 1000kms in a Roock Porsche 911 GT2 (sixth), he grabs pole in the Konrad Porsche for the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Problems with the ignition turn certain victory into second place. At Laguna Seca Jan wins the finale of the American sportscar championship with Konrad's Porsche 911 GT2 before going on to win the All Stars race of the Karting Masters at the Palais Omnisports in Bercy near Paris.
With Konrad Motorsport's all-new Lola B98/10 Jan takes part in the 1999 Daytona 24 hours and Sebring 12 hours. These are also the first tests for the newly set-up Racing for Holland team. Together with Peter Kox and Tom Coronel Jan starts the Lola-Ford in the Le Mans 24 hours. After 18 hours, when on their way into the top ten, the car retires with a broken driveshaft. At Road Atlanta Jan takes part in the Petit Le Mans for Panoz-Ford and finishes sixth.
After some very promising tests, Lammers has a great chance to take his third victory at the 24 hours of Daytona, but the Lola-Ford retires with engine problems while in the lead. At Le Mans Racing for Holland surprises everyone with a fine tenth grid position, but after only three hours the Lola is out of the race when it loses a wheel with Tom Coronel driving. Tom goes out to fetch the wheel and manages to get it back on the car, only to be disqualified for having separated himself too much from his car...
In 2001 Racing for Holland is a fully Dutch-based racing team. Jan renews his co-operation with Japanese manufacturer Dome. With the new Dome S101 sportscar he starts in the new FIA Sportscar Championship and the Le Mans 24 hours. Already in their second race this new team (Lammers and twenty-year old Dutch-born, Belgian-licensed talent Val Hillebrand) reaches the podium with third spot the Monza 1000kms.
For Le Mans Lammers offers small logo segments on his car to sponsors. This gives the car a chequered look. For a limited amount of money (about 2,200 Euro) small companies can become a Le Mans sponsor!
After several good results ruled out by bad luck, Team Racing for Holland at last wins the eighth race of the FIA Sportscar Championship. Lammers and Hillebrand dominate the Nürburgring with their Dome-Judd. In 2002, with Jan celebrating his 30th anniversary in motorsports, the Racing for Holland car is the clear title favourite while its slippery lines allow the Dome to place itself among the all-conquering Audis on the Le Mans grid.