Stockin’ all over the World: Overseas Drivers Preview

Where to begin? How about those drivers who have travelled the furthest, from the Land of the Long White Cloud to be with us on Brisca’s biggest night? I talk, of course, of the four New Zealand drivers scheduled to race at Ipswich on September 16th. These guys do not race on tarmac back home, it’s shale only so adapting to hard track conditions could be a pretty steep learning curve. That said, you would have a hard time finding a visiting Kiwi who hasn’t impressed the UK fans with their driving skills over the years from Brian Anderson and Warren McIntyre in the Eighties and Neil McCoard in the Nineties to Joe Faram and Peter Rees in more recent memory and I just have to mention the guy with one of the best stock car names ever – Frank van Vroonhoven – he may only have raced here in 1992 but he made an impression, especially on Jayne Bean’s back bumper!

There have been many others who have traversed the globe in search of stock car success, but enough of this reminiscing – let’s look at the first NZ driver to hit the 2017 UK tracks running.

Jordan Dare (NZ2)

Photo credit: Team Fairhurst, courtesy of Chris Clark

Twenty-four year old Jordan is a light fabrication engineer back home in Foxton, New Zealand. He has raced from the age of 13 and is 2016/17 South Island Champion and a member of the Manawatu Mustangs team. This Red Waka Motorsports driver made his UK debut at King’s Lynn on September 2nd using the Ben Hurdman (207) shale car and was on it right from the start, placing in every race and finishing with a scintillating drive in the Grand National where he led for many laps, leaving former world champions Paul Harrison and Craig Finnikin wondering how to get by him. Jordan has the use of the Jordan Falding (36) tarmac car for Ipswich, a proven winner on the vaguely similar Venray track in the Netherlands but he will need track time to adjust to hard track racing and that could count against him.

Wayne Hemi (NZ591)

Photo credit: Team Fairhurst, courtesy of Chris Clark

Formerly from Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, Wayne now resides on Australia’s Gold Coast but still makes regular trips to New Zealand to race which beats even Mat Newson’s mileage record. Like Jordan Dare he is a member of the Red Waka Motorsports team. Wayne will have a Lee Fairhurst car at his disposal for his UK debut and this two-time national champion is said to be something of a perfectionist so he should fit right in with the 217 team. Both Wayne and Jordan got some tarmac time in at Birmingham last week in preparation for Ipswich.

Kerry Remnant (NZ19)

A veteran of the NZ stock car scene, Kerry began racing in 1994 and has made an impressive twenty-one consecutive appearances in the team championships. He raced in the 2003 and 2004 world finals and returned for the 2015 event at King’s Lynn, notching up the fastest laps of the Kiwis in the time trials. Sadly, Kerry’s race ended early with Nigel Green (this year’s pole-sitter) hanging off the side of the NZ19 machine. Both drivers will be hoping for a better result this year. At the time of writing it is not known which car Kerry will be racing this year – one from the Mat Newson stable, possibly.

Simon Joblin (NZ1)

The name Joblin is well known in Brisca stock car racing circles, or should that be ovals? Back in 1986 Simon’s father Russell came to the UK with an audacious plan to build a New Zealand version of a Brisca F1 car to race in the World Final at Coventry. The finished article was an engineering masterpiece but Russell came to grief in the big race, clipping the fence and taking out leader Stuart Smith. In 2010 Simon’s brother Scott built a car in New Zealand and shipped it over to the UK for the World Final .A third brother, Adam, also has experience of UK racing. Simon is a dairy farmer based in Eltham, Taranaki and is the 2017 New Zealand champion, hence the number NZ1. He last raced here in 2006 and for Ipswich in September looks to have the former Paul Ford, Tom Harris built car at his disposal.

Tenuous link time: The previously mentioned town of Foxton has an authentic Dutch windmill which links in nicely with our next set of overseas competitors, those from over the North Sea. The tarmac scene in Holland is maybe not as buoyant as it once was, with meetings attracting no more than 20 drivers on average but we can expect to see some of the big names at Ipswich and they do not come any bigger than Rocket Ron Kroonder (H217). After a brief retirement a couple of years ago Ron returned to the tracks with a bang and his tarmac form speaks for itself – two final wins at Lelystad this year and a third in the Gold Cup at Venray in August make Ron one to watch, especially as he made it onto the podium the last time the WF was held at Ipswich, taking a fine third place.

Geert Jan Keijzer (H6) was the 2014/15/16 tarmac series champion on the mainland and if I read the kampioenschap standen correctly is leading the 2017 table as well. Based in Helmond in Southern Holland Geert-Jan has a solitary heat win to his credit at Ipswich as well as good results at Northampton and Skegness in the past but, like Ron Kroonder did not fare too well at the June 2017 meeting at Foxhall Heath. Odd really, because Ipswich is one of those tracks I have always thought really suited the Netherlands drivers.

And just to keep the commentators (and report writers) on their toes, there’s another H6 in the mix. The other one is Pascal Spigt, from Julianadorp in North Holland, not a million miles away from the stock car mad island of Texel. Not surprisingly, Pascal is probably more at home on the looser stuff so may struggle at Foxhall Heath but whatever happens, I have a feeling that the Spigt Racing Team will enjoy the weekend.

 

Wesley Schaap (H77) was one of only two Dutch drivers who came over for the European Championship at Northampton in July and the only one to race in the main event so it must have been galling (to put it mildly) for Wesley to be disqualified mid-race for overtaking the pace car under caution. He showed at Northampton that he knows what the front bumper is for and can give as good as he gets. A chap named Dave Schaap finished second in the 2005 WF behind FWJ – must be something in the genes.

Johan Catsburg (H99) from Waverveen has been racing for sixteen years and is a former Dutch points champion. The driver of the “Black Bullet” never seems to have Lady Luck with him in world finals but that won’t stop him from giving one hundred per cent on the day.

Evert van den Berg (H12) started his racing career in autocross, then moved across to stock cars in 1993 – his first car was nicknamed the pink panther. Evert makes the grid by winning the wildcard race at Lelystad in July. Another driver who earned his place on the grid via a wildcard race is Hans Baegen (H65). Hans has been racing F1s since 1995 and qualified for WF2017 at Venray in June.

Bart Koopmans (H38), one of 5 drivers from Stockcar Team Koopmans, has made appearances at most World Final weekends in recent years – even taking the chequered flag in a heat at the overseas Friday night meeting at Coventry in 2014. Unfortunately, he was later found to be a lap down and the win actually went to another Koopmans – Wendy who drives car H36.

Jan Roelof Wijbenga (H228) won the King’s Battle at Blauwhuis back in April to be crowned the King of Dirt. The man from Koostertille is a previous winner of the Golden Helmet and Masters of Shale titles at home on the Mainland and would, I am sure, prefer to be racing on the dirt, given the choice.

Henk Jan Ronitz (H240) is no stranger to the top step of the podium; taking Long Track / Gold Cup victories in 2001, 2003 and 2004. He’s been racing for 24 years – including a year as H1 in 2005. Although he’s focused on dirt racing in recent years, he has over 20 years of experience of racing on the asphalt.

Christiaan Weyenberg (H380) has probably spent the most time racing in the UK this year out of the Netherlands drivers. From Siebengewald, Chris has already made five appearances in the UK this year, including at the European Championship weekend in July. He is another driver who raced in the June Ipswich meeting but without much success.

Gert Elzinga (H393) seems to prefer tarmac racing these days and has a former Keith Murdoch (H175) machine at his disposal. Gert has raced at Northampton once in the past but most of his UK appearances have been on shale tracks.

Jan Kuin (H699) normally races on shale/dirt back home in Holland and was very impressive at the 2016 Coventry world final meeting as a white top. Now a superstar, Jan, from Lutjebroek, got in some all-important practice laps at Lelystad earlier in the year but may find his gorgeous pink- liveried shale shifter outclassed by the tarmac specials around him.

This preview has gone on far too long so it just remains for me to wish all the overseas competitors (and one or two of the UK finalists) the very best of luck on Saturday. The weather forecast is not looking particularly good for the weekend which could make for some interesting results.

Gentlemen, start your engines – but not too early!

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Mick Jenkins & Colin Casserley 

Update: we may also see Pieter van der Iest (H226) and Frank Wouters (H417) on track this weekend.

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