A sixty-five car turn-out of overseas drivers for this, fast becoming traditional, “Overseas Drivers only” meeting was incredible and thanks must go to Coventry Stadium and each and every one of the teams who made this a night to remember.
Joey Slooff (100) and Jelle Bijlsma (388) led Heat One away, the yellow tops behind a bit eager to get going. Slooff led, from Bijlsma and Klaas- Jan Modder (9) as Jan Roelof Wijbinga (228) spun Johan Catsburg (99) aside. Bijlsma went for the lead but spun himself and it was Sloof with Jan Vrieswijk (104) into second. Sloof found the fence in the company of Arie Kandt (267) and Vrieswijk took the lead, shadowed by a very fast Bert Honderd (541).
Further back, Gold Cup champion Roy Maessen (400), in the Christian Weyenberg car, was going great guns but Vrieswijk was still there, with Honderd second and Richard Talsma (64), surely under-graded at blue, in third. Honderd took the lead with around two to run and held on for the win from Vrieswijk and Talsma, with Koen Maris (61) fourth and Bart Koopmans an excellent fifth. Maessen employed some impressive bumperwork on the way to his sixth place.
Twenty-two for Heat Two, Gosse Hoekstra (44) leading them into the first corner when Martin Koorn (178) took over from Inge Wiersma (501) but Cor Meijer (69), in the ex-Harris shale car was on a charge, while Henk-Jan Ronitz (240) was spun by Louw Wobbes (22). Meijer took the lead with Gert Elzinga (393) now second and Sjeng Smidt Junior (148) up to fourth behind Tom Maris (161). New Zealander Phil Ogle (NZ282) pulled off just after the halfway stage but there was no stopping Meijer, taking the flag from the Zinga and Smidt.
Joop Veltkamp (T58) made all the early running in Heat Three, the wet track catching out Ron Kroonder (217) and Pieter van der Iest (226) as they both spun. A pit bend pile-up confused matters and a caution was called for to move the Remco de Buck (92) car to safety. A rapid restart saw the cars bumper to bumper down the back straight with Rick Wobbes (221) at the front of the pack followed by Jan Kuin (699). Kuin spun before the green but Wobbes kept his head to lead the lap. As is often the case at these overseas meetings, there is a driver who excels on the Friday night but is not part of the World Final grid and that driver is usually Danny Van Wamelen (47). He was in great form, charging up the order until the race was stopped for Gary Grattan (917) who decided to give the grandstand patrons a thrill and roll his car onto its side.
Wamelen took off like a rocket at the restart, putting almost the length of a straight between himself and the pack by turn one, but another caution, this one for the Sjaak Kentie (179) car sideways across the home straight, negated Danny van Wam’s advantage. Wamelen was not going to be denied, pulling out another healthy lead at the restart but the interest was further back as Kroonder and van der Iest battled over third, settled in favour of the Harkema youngster at the flag behind veteran Martin Verhoef (8).
Back in the pits, the Phil Ogle car was up on stands with its entire rear axle missing, so it was good to see him emerge as the last car out for the thirty-one car Consolation after a lot of hard work by the Wainman/NZ282 teams. Bijlsma (388) led as Ronald Raaphorst (7) almost rolled over a marker tyre, while a pile up on the pit bend claimed a number of cars and brought out the yellow flags.
Ronitz had a night to forget, spinning onto the infield with Piet Dogger (12) while Catsburg’s luck deserted him again at the restart. White topper 388 was passed by Lex Limmen (25) for the lead but Wijbenga was moving through fast and looked a likely winner. Bijlsma retook the lead only to be passed again by the 25 car and Wijbenga took second place off the flying white top. Limmen hooked up with the still luckless Catsburg, losing top spot to 228 as the boards came out, but Bijlsma was still within striking distance. The NZ282 car was far from well and the New Zealand driver retired to the centre amid smoke, steam and sparks on the last lap. The race was Wijbenga’s to lose and lose it he did! Entering the final bend he piled into the back of Harm van der Veen, the 484 car turning sideways, both cars locked together and slithering towards the fence. Bijlsma won while Wijbenga tried frantically to free himself from 484, to no avail.
I made it thirty-seven cars for the Final and what a race it turned out to be. Bijlsma and Joop Veltkamp (T58) led the field away with seventeen red tops raring to go at the back of the grid. 388 led until Vrieswijk took over, with Elzinga third but the 47 car of van Wamelen was on a charge, though it was hard to tell who was where as the dust rose. Maessen and Schutt dished out liberal helpings of bumper but a caution at halfway for Oudhuis and van der Iest brought the race to a stop and the chance to see who was leading. The white-topped 388 led, from 47, 64 and a few cars back, 400. Van Wamelen took over with Kroonder up to second with Maessen third but the dust storm worsened lap after lap.
Pieter Langeveld (155) retired his ex-Lee Robinson car to the centre and the 47 clashed with a backmarker allowing Kroonder to close right up and take the lead on the pit bend, only to lose it a lap later to van Wamelen with Maessen now second. Bumpers flew and the first three cars came off the pit bend side by side with Talsma also in the mix. The 47 and 217 cars scrapped for the lead and as they appeared out of the dust, Maessen now held second with 47 relegated to third, then fourth as Talsma took his place but the chequered flag fell for Kroonder after the final five laps of intense competition. No fencings, no dummy spitting, just proper stock car racing with no quarter asked or given. Fantastisch!
Another big field of cars for the Grand National, stopped on the first lap when Limmen stalled on the back straight and was clipped by a passing car. Koorn led the restart until Bijlsma (388) took over, surviving another restart to take his second win of the evening from Talsma and Smidt.
Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley and Ant Jenkins