It’s a Small, Small World – Overseas World Final Entrants

Anyone who has been to Disneyland will be familiar with the annoying tune associated with the title of this piece – it will probably stay with you for days now, but my reason for using that title is simple.

As a stock car fan of many years standing (sometimes sitting, occasionally leaning) I have often found our World Championship ridiculed – “How can it be World Championship – all the drivers are British!” used to be one of the favourite comments, and, to be fair that was probably true in years gone by. I have even heard tales of drivers being persuaded by unscrupulous promoters to “disguise” themselves as overseas drivers just to add a bit of international flavour to the proceedings – surely not!

Luckily, the Buxton promotion do not have to resort to such shenanigans at this year’s World Final, coming soon to an Adrian Flux Arena near you. The Buxton web-site has a comprehensive list of overseas drivers booked to appear at King’s Lynn on Friday 18 September, no less than 41, count them, 41 from the Netherlands and New Zealand. No representative from the USA this year (Hello Eric and soon to be increased family) nor from Australia, but I reckon the Low Countries and the Land of the Long White Cloud have done us proud and if they all turn out on the Friday night it will, like the last one at KL, be a better meeting than the World Final itself.

I relish seeing overseas drivers appearing on our tracks – going back to 1971 the first I remember are Henk and Jak Straver from Holland, then  South African Harry van der Spuij, sadly no longer with us, but a final winner over here at Harringay. His travelling companion then was Boet Eckout. I still have the photos of the remains of the Stu Smith spare car after Harry went full chat into a fence post at Brafield – it ain’t pretty.

More up to date, Quintin Saayman, another South African, chalked up a win at Skegness a few years back. The biggest problem facing our overseas visitors is lack of track time – to expect a driver to master a strange car, on a strange track, in a World Final no less is just madness, and yet the New Zealanders do it, every year. Track time pays dividends, cast your minds back to the performances of Kiwi Neil McCoard in a Murray Harrison car in 2002 for proof of that.

But what of the overseas challenge in the 2015 World Final?

Bryce Steiner (NZ118) has been racing for over 25 years and is the current World 240 champion. He is using an FWJ built car and has already raced at Northampton and Belle Vue. Results have not been spectacular but I reckon he is keeping his powder dry for King’s Lynn. Kyle Fraser (NZ92) is a former New Zealand champion with previous experience of UK racing, having competed in the 2008 event. The final Kiwi contender, Kerry Remnant (NZ19) is also no stranger to UK style racing as he raced in the 2003 and 2004 title chases.

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Bryce Steiner (NZ118) at Northampton in late August.

Mainland Europe is represented by a number of names familiar to a lot of UK fans. Pieter van der Iest (H226) is the Dutch Open Champion and tops the Netherlands points chart. No WF experience to fall back on but a top man on the loose stuff who should find the King’s Lynn shale to his liking. Car H226 won the final at the “Friday before “meeting last year.

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Pieter van der Iest (H226) pictured here preparing for the Skegness World Final in 2012.

Sjeng Smidt Junior (H148) has no F1 shale racing knowledge to refer back to, being a tarmac only F1 racer in Holland, but strap him in an F2, stick him on the shale and watch him go. His results over the World Cup weekend at Raceway Venray show that he has the hard track experience to live with the best, but can he transfer that to the, undoubtedly at first, wet shale he will face over the first few laps of the world Final?

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Sjeng Smidt Jnr (H148) on track with Paul Ford (388) at Raceway Venray earlier this year.

Another tarmac racer is Hans Baegen (H65) from Harmelen who had the misfortune to destroy his engine whilst racing on the Friday night before last year’s event. I wish Hans better luck this time around – will he be using his tar car or has he a shale shifter waiting in the wings?

Henk Jan Ronitz (H240) is no stranger to the UK but concentrated on the hard tracks. Now an exponent of the Dutch clay circuits, he has the car and the experience to spring a surprise on the big night.

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Henk Jan Ronitz (H240) in the pits before the last King’s Lynn World Final.

Jeroen Wekema (H21) makes the World Final grid thanks to a second place in the Dutch Open at Sint Maarten. This could be his first taste of UK racing and just being part of the event is probably reward enough for the Wekema Team – to finish in the results would be outstanding.

Rutger Valk (H27) won a heat in the 2013 Friday night session and has raced at both King’s Lynn and Coventry in the last five years, claiming places on each outing so this young man knows what is required.

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Rutger Valk (H27) is no stranger to UK soil.

Durk Greidanus (H29) made his WF debut in 2001 so the man from Tzum has the most experience to draw on.  Booked his ticket to this year’s event by winning the Master of Shale final at Emmen and has a beautiful new car at his disposal.

Koen Maris (H61) The youngster from Roden was the fastest overseas qualifier at the 2014 WF at Coventry (and finished second in the final the night before) so he knows his way around a shale track. Unfortunately, Koen may have been the unwilling catalyst for that first bend pile up due to pressure from those behind and failed to finish – the year before he was the highest placed overseas driver so if he gets around the first bend unscathed, keep an eye on H61.

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Koen Maris (H61) at King’s Lynn in 2013.

Wesley Schaap (H77) comes from a dyed in the wool stock car racing family. I remember his late grandfather Bert (H525) racing (and winning?) at Northampton, whilst his dad (Dave H007) has the distinction of being the highest-placed overseas driver ever with a second place behind FWJ in the 2005 event. Is it asking too much to expect Wesley to go one better than dad?

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Wesley Schapp (H77) on track at Venray during the 2015 World Cup weekend.

Jan Roelof Wijbenga (H228) hails from Koostertille and is a previous winner of the Golden Helmet and Masters of Shale titles on the Mainland. By no means his first World Final so knows just what to expect – look out for probably the most colourful car on the grid.

Regardless of where your loyalties lie, give these overseas challengers a big cheer as they make their way around on the parade lap at King’s Lynn on September 19. For some, just being there will be reward enough, for others only a good result will do. They have travelled hundreds, in some cases thousands of miles to make the World Final grid so let them know you appreciate the time, effort and, yes, money they have invested in being here to entertain you.

Veel Geluk and let’s have a cracker race with everyone home and hosed.

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley and Rhosanna Jenkins

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