Auto racing (also known as car racing or automobile racing) started around the end of the 19th century (1894). Over the years the sport has been changing a lot, for better or worse. Adrian van der Kroft tells us a bit more about these changes and the implications that have followed.
You have seen auto racing change quite a bit over the years. We would love to hear a bit more.
What is the physical difference between the modern F1 car and the older versions?
One big difference are the big tyres that they have these days, making the cars much wider. In length, I think they are about 1.5 times the size of the older versions.
Is that also the reason why it’s so difficult to pass each other?
Hm, a bit probably, but even more because of the speed of the car. The cars are going so much faster nowadays (accelaration & top speed), that it becomes more difficult to overtake the length of the other car. Another reason is that the modern cars stick to the streets, whereas the older cars don’t stay in the same place (and drift a lot).
Pit stops in racing have also become much quicker, isn’t it?
Yeah, a lot. Talking about slower pit stops, I was lucky enough to win a race thanks to that (in Spa). When this race started, all the other drivers were using slick tyres and I used some kind of intermediate tyres. After half a lap it starts pouring, and everyone goes inside to change their tyres, except for me (because when I want to substitute tyres with my GT car it takes at least 4 to 5 minutes, compared to about 2 minutes for them). Then later on at the finish everyone finds out, surprisingly, that I was the fastest.
And what about the safety in auto racing? How has this changed?
It’s much safer nowadays. If you read the stories and facts about F1-racing back in the time, they will tell you that around the 50’s and the 60’s there would be 2 to 5 deaths per year. Now, the last deadly accident in Formula 1 happened about 8 years ago in Japan (Jules Bianchi).
You’re racing in vintage race cars. Do you think racing/motorsports was more interesting 50 years ago and before? Do you think all the changes to the cars and the safety rules take away part of the excitement?
I don’t think it necessarily takes away of the fun, because now at least you don’t have to worry too much about your safety and survival. It does however make it less intense! These days the f1-drivers are much younger because you need less experience to be able to drive a car. It has turned into a sort of video game, even though it’s for real. For me personally this has made racing less interesting!
I actually think that all the safety measurements that have been taken over the years don’t make driving a car more safe. Now that cars can steer themselves, people will be more on their phones behind the wheel, because what else should they do? All these features take away of our learning curve to manage a car (and with it part of the safety) but also the excitement to drive a car. I would much rather drive a pre-war Bentley than a modern Bentley. The modern Bentley will probably have all the comfort and ease that you could wish for, but the pre-war Bentley gives me the driving pleasure that I want (like switching gears).
In all these years of being a racer but also watching racing on television you have seen quite some fabulous racers. Could you name us your top 3 favorite drivers of all time? And what makes them so good?
That’s indeed a difficult question, because I have seen so many over all these years. My number 1 would be, and there won’t be many people disagreeing with me when I mention his name, Stirling Moss. Not only because of his technical capacity but also because of his versatility. In one day he would go from a tour car, to a F1 car to another car and then win all 3 races. Or he would drive a sprint race of 45min and a Mille Miglia of 12 hours. He was just very complete, he could do it all, and good!
I’m also quite impressed with Max Verstappen, because he has this ‘raw talent’. They kind of try to make him more public friendly now, but he is not so interested in all of that. Give him a steering wheel and three pedals and he will do things that other drivers simply cannot do!
Most often when it starts raining you can distinguish between the good and the worse drivers. A good driver is someone who in all situations has the control over the car, a certain feeling with the car, in which the car listens to you instead of the other way around. This is something that Max has mastered.
A number 3 I don’t really have! I feel like Stirling Moss and Max Verstappen are together from an extraordinary level, but a number 3 would be a bit less special to me. I do think that drivers like Michael Schumacher were extraordinary too. He has been a world champion for 7 times in 3 different cars! I have a bit less respect for Lewis Hamilton, because in all those years of being a world champion he was driving in the best car and had the best team on his side. Another excellent but less famous driver from back in the time was David Piper. For every circuit (le Mans, F1 etc.) he would buy his own car and made from driving his profession until his late 70’s. Even when he lost his leg in one of the circuits he wouldn’t stop his racing career!
And your top 3 favorite cars? And why?
One of my favorite cars, one that I unfortunately cannot afford, is a Ferrari 250 LM. The design is very goal oriented and therefore lacks frills. This makes it my favorite Ferrari!
I think that my favorite post-war grand prix car is the Cooper T66 (see image) It’s a 1.5-liter 8-cilinder and when I hear that car switch gears before making a turn it gives me goosebumps every time again.
Regarding the pre-war cars, I have a preference for Bugatti's and Bentleys. I also really like my own car, the “Talbot 105”, which was designed around the 1920’s and was back then a car accustomed with the leading edge technology.
I feel ashamed to say it, but we recently bought an electric car for ourselves, a Mercedes EQA. Even though I don’t think it’s a “real” car anymore, I am surprised by it’s possibilities. When we just had it, it brought back the adventure, not knowing if we could drive all the way to Maastricht on one battery.