Jan’s Dome project with its individual panel sponsorships.
Photo: Paul Kooyman
Although my home was near to the Zandvoort circuit in Holland, my family had nothing to do with the motor industry or motor racing. However, as a young boy I became involved with the ground staff at the track. My job was to help out at the Skid Control Center, working for Rob Slotemaker. Rob was one of Holland’s great drivers and celebrities at the time. He had driven at Le Mans and was a national hero. I, so to speak, “hitched a ride” on his success. He taught me some of his skills; how to control a car, and some of his racecraft. From there it was a case of buying my own saloon car to race. I had some good success with that, winning the Dutch Group 1 championship. I soon found myself in the European Formula Three championship. I competed in the championship for two years; the first in a Hawke and the second, in 1978, in a Ralt, when I won it. During those two seasons I was up against drivers like Anders Olofsson, Teo Fabi, Piercarlo Ghinzani, Arie Luyendijk, Derek Warwick, Derek Daly, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet. I relied totally on outside sources for sponsorship and financial help, it was quite hard. Motor racing isn’t just driving, it’s a matter of finding finances, keeping the car maintained and other things like that.
My aim in racing was to get to Formula One, which I achieved in 1979, with the Shadow team owned and run by Don Nichols. Not one of the top teams, but in the end, if a top team sees a top driver they will go out and get him, no matter the expense. If somebody is convincingly quick they just go out and get them. Frankly, in my case, I was probably lacking that something the top teams look for, and not worth taking on. I think that was why I drove for the teams I did in Formula One. With Don Nichols, we all wanted the same thing, someone to show each of us how to win. You try to draw on your experiences, except if you don’t have the experience of winning it makes it difficult to win. I don’t care what sportsman or woman you are, you don’t need the experience of losing to be successful. That was my problem in Formula One, I either failed to qualify, retired or slowed in races due to inexperience on my part and lack of development by the teams I drove for. Probably, if I had been a little more patient, perhaps a top team may have looked at me and given me a chance to gain the experience required to win, or at least be a part of a top Formula One racing team.
Become a Member & Get Ad-Free Access To This Article (& About 6,000+ More)
Access to the full article is limited to paid subscribers only. Our membership removes most ads, lets you enjoy unlimited access to all our premium content, and offers you awesome discounts on partner products. Enjoy our premium content.