Sint Maarten – August 9th 2009 Meeting Report

On a gloriously sunny day in the Netherlands, the scene was set for the Nederlands Kampioenschap (Dutch Open) meeting at Sint Maarten. Upon arriving trackside it was clear to see that the pits were filled to bursting point and a quick glance at the pit notice board (near the entrance to the track) showed that there were over seventy cars booked in to race. Some major work has taken place over the off season with the clay being removed, concrete put down and the clay replaced, leading to a very smooth track that towards the end of the day was not only smooth but black with rubber. The format was for nine F1 heats; with each car racing three times, leading up to the last race of the day, the F1 Nederlands Kampioenschap.

Although no UK drivers had made the journey across the water; some ex-UK cars were present. Harmen Zwerver (195) was in command of the ex-Dean Whitwell (UK195) shale car and Egbert van der Werf (164) was in charge of the ex-Kev Smith (UK64) car. Also on track was the very first car that Frankie Wainman jnr (UK515) ever built; now in the hands of Jaap Kees Snoeij (476) which proved its overall durability by rolling on turn three. Another later Wainman built car that Bert Schaap raced at Brafield was also in the pits; now under the ownership of Ben Boersen (406).

Jaap Kees Snoeij (476)  rolling the 1st car FWJ built. Photo Colin Casserley

Jaap Kees Snoeij (476) rolling the 1st car FWJ built. Photo Colin Casserley

Ben Boersen (406) and Tjitze Minnema (48) on turn three. Photo Colin Casserley

Ben Boersen (406) and Tjitze Minnema (48) on turn three. Photo Colin Casserley

Peter Koorn (41) and brother (14) Arjan (who was not racing) of Texel now have racing radio telecommunication set up with their pit crew via a small removable radio antenna attached to the central rollcage strut at the rear of the car above the fuel tank. Pieter Dogger (12) also of Texel often has a small video camera attached to his car and posts lots of his in-car camera footage onto the internet.

All the F1 races were started three abreast, with drivers being informed pre-meeting (via the noticeboard) which heats they were in and later;when the race was due they were called to line up via the clear PA. When the cars came out to, they were promptly gridded up in the pit lane in racing order. This meant that as soon as the track preparation had been completed (watering and regrading) by three efficient tractors, the drivers could pull onto the homestraight and commence racing almost immediately. All of the heats had twenty plus cars in, showing a good mix of drivers from the old hands like Job Honderd (540) to the new, like Rian Vronik (102), the son of experienced Toon Vronik (2).

As per any normal meeting, some of the heats were more entertaining than others, but cars were regularly being squeezed out and flying into the dykes with all the drivers giving it some sideways action. Most drivers took a wide line and came out of turn four so wide that the rear outside often hung over the dyke before they gained traction and raced off. Tyre problems did not normally mean the end of the race either. In particular, Toon Vronik (2) had two rear outside flats in two of his three heats but kept on driving for as long as possible despite suffering with poor car handling.

Cars often spun out causing bottlenecks as those following sought to find a way past and keep racing. Cars disappeared backwards into the dyke ending up with another car perched on their side. Some drivers skimmed the infield banking on the turns causing them to go up on two/three wheels, spin out or get themselves beached requiring tractor assistance at the end of the race. Cautions in the heats were rare, but when the yellows were waved; both tractors and ground staff were immediately on the move towards the incident.

When the cars began to move into the pit lane for the Nederlands Kampioenschap it became clear that long haired Axel Nijs (32) who had looked very quick all day and won a heat would be on pole. Last years Hednesford visitor, Sandor Mantjie (535) from the island of Texel, who had already won two of his heats was alongside him with heat winner Weird Gietema (76) sat on the outside. When the green dropped Axel (32) quickly took the early lead while behind him a melee of cars fought their way to the front. Sandor Mantjie (535) and Ouwe Bijlsma (3) from the third row pushed beyond the fighting pack and looking fairly evenly matched, vying against each other for second place, giving Axel a little breathing space out front.

The start of the Nederlands Kampioenschap. Photo Colin Casserley

The start of the Nederlands Kampioenschap. Photo Colin Casserley

Meanwhile, further down the field Toon Vronik (2) was making steady progress towards the front. A quick Bijlsma got ahead of Mantjie and started to gain on Axel Nijs, putting the bumper in on turns one and two but to little effect. Fred Hink (35) muscled in on the action and soon got past Bijlsma to take second place with Hink and Bijlsma swapping places as they fought it out. Backmarker Wiger Hellema (033) was between Hink and Nijs until Hellema entered turn three far too fast and slid into the dyke sideways before coming to rest on his side. Sandor Mantjie (535) who had been doing well was forced to retire after getting a flat. Toon Vronik (2) decided again not to bother retiring from his flat tyre straight away and kept going; as the tyre frayed away to nothing, he sent big sprays of burnt off rubber towards the outside of the track.

The first yellows of the race were thrown for Peter Kroon (41) who had slipped into the dyke on turn one but unfortunately had another car clatter into the back of him causing rear end damage. This closed up the grid immensely as Nijs had already managed to take quite a lead on second place Hink; the restart order being 32 –35 – 3 – 540. Fred Hink (35) was right on top of Nijs at the restart but Nijs went incredibly slowly into turn three and didn’t commence racing until he started coming out of turn four.

Durk Greidanus (29) the silver roofed Master of Shale Points Champion 2008 was pushing his way through while Bijlsma took on Hink again to eventually retake second place. Meanwhile Nijs was again stretching a lead on the following cars, taking a very wide line and throwing it sideways. At this point another set of yellows were waved for another car in the dyke on turn one as well as a car that was stranded on the outside of the beginning of the home straight, right on the line where most cars had been racing. When the green dropped again, the first five cars maintained positions and ended up being evenly spaced out.

Hink tried to gain on Nijs by taking a tight line round turn three to counter Nijs’ wide line but the next lap Nijs went in tight to the infield himself to prevent Hink gaining any further advantage. Slightly further down the field nearing the end of the race, Greidanus managed to overtake Weird Gietema (76) who then swapped places with Koen Maris (61) only for Mark Woudenberg (84) to finally get through. Hink tried to get near Nijs but Age Koudenburg (H94) was impeding his progress. When Hink got past him he kept up with Nijs but ran out of laps allowing Axel Nijs to sweep to victory and take the Nederlands Kampioenschap title for 2009.

Axel Nijs celebrated his victory by doing on track doughnuts round the track, before the top three had an infield presentation complete with sunflowers followed by a well received parade lap.

Nederlands Kampioenschap

1st 32 Axel Nijs
2nd 35 Fred Hink
3rd 3 Ouwe Bijlsma
4th 540 Job Honderd
5th 29 Durk Greidanus
6th 84 Mark Woudenberg
7th 76 Weird Gietema
8th 20 Bert de Vries
9th 172 Ron Verkerk
10th 46 Rob Hink

A Haigh

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