Classic (Historic & Vintage) racing is a type of racing we hear less about on daily basis. It is however a very spectacular type of racing, taking place on the circuits of the modern F1. Race fanatic Adrian van der Kroft tells us all about it.
Hi Adrian, it’s great that you wanted to make some time for us today and we are curious to hear your racing stories. We will start the conversation with a question and let’s see how it goes from there.
So to kick us off, where did it all start? Or in other words, where does your love for motorsports come from?
My affinity with motorsports started as a young scholar when I stepped up mopeds and sold them to the boys from next doors. At the same time, I joined motorbike races for a short period, but I wasn’t successful enough to earn money and feed myself. Moreover, my father wasn’t planning on financing a study at a university if I was planning on driving myself to death anyways. So, I decided to be well-behaved, follow my study and as a lawyer become ‘a useful member of society’.
However, towards the end of my professional career, the passionate (repressed) feelings came back. I was collecting cars at that time from the brand Morgan which gave me the opportunity to buy the fabric-GT2 racer. I decided to take the car for a demonstration weekend to Zandvoort, where I was being asked for my license because of my driving behavior. Since my license was lacking, they told me that I should sign up for it this winter so that by next summer they could take it in. There and then I decided to achieve my racing license at Zandvoort, and ‘the devil’ awakened within me.
I started to race more and more, which reached a peak at about 60 races per year. Now that I’m getting a bit older (after 30 years of racing), my wife is asking me to slow down a bit. However, at a recent race with vintage Le Mans cars I acknowledged that with the other drivers being at least 15 years younger than me, there is a message.
Haha I see. And if I type your name into Google I mostly find pictures of you driving in classic race cars. Is that correct?
Yes, that is correct. The oldest racing car that I drive is a Le Mans car from the year 1931 (see picture on top of the page) and the youngest is a GT2 car from the year 1996. In a race the grids are decided by the time period that your car was built.
Also, based on how good you are there are different licenses to acquire and with those different licenses you can join certain races. For about 20 years I have had an International-B certificate and with my certificate I can join all the races that I would like to do. The races that I am not allowed to join are the modern Formula-2 and Formula-1 races, but I would probably not be able to drive them fast enough anyways.
And a bit dangerous maybe? Did you actually have a serious accident before?
I almost died, yes. I broke most of my bones between my nose and my toes. I was driving a Formula-1 car from the 50’s without a roll cage or a seat belt (see History of Auto Racing for more information). At the start of the race, in Tunisia, I drove into a bus shelter that was put with steel posts into concrete.. Well, I guess you understand that this event didn’t have a nice effect on car nor driver.
It does make sense, indeed. Did you think about quitting your race career after the accident?
Well, that’s an interesting story. Shortly after being brought to the hospital, I got a call from a certain Betty Walker, the widow of Rob Walker (from Walker Racing, Stirling Moss drove for his team). She had heard that a driver had been in an accident and wanted to know how I was doing. Later in the conversation she also asked me about the status of the car. I told her that it was going to take at least a year before the car could drive again. She responded by asking me if I didn’t want to buy a car from Robby, the Connaught type A (the Monaco rubber that comes with a Camber Watch is from the wheels of this car).
During this conversation my wife comes walking in asking me about my call. While I try to explain, her eyes get big and she reacts furiously: You are not trying to buy a car now, are you? Not much later I bought the car anyway and I have used it ever since.
But to come back to the question, no. From day one I knew that an accident could happen, but I always had in mind that something like this can happen to everyone but me. It was more like a disappointment, like oh, I am not immune after all. A fight between you and destiny.
Although it may not seem like it, I do take risks into account. I recently decided not to drive the Spa-Francorchamps Classic anymore, because this circuit is during the night. Even though I think night races are awesome, my car is not the fastest and my night vision has gotten worse.
Earlier in the conversation you mentioned a race that you won (only in the audio, not in the text). I am curious, what is your favorite win in all these years?
That is a difficult question! I think one of my favorites is the weekend that I won in Portugal, coincidentally the race before my accident. Another one is the first time that I won the GT of Le Mans.
I have to say that winning has not been the most important aspect of racing for me. I have a lot of fun with the cars and because of my perfectionism I hope one time in my life I can finish the perfect lap. However, I don’t know anyone who can confirm that they ever drove a perfect lap so it’s very likely that this is never going to happen.
The nice thing about racing is that after every race you can look back and think ‘this I can do better next time’. During a race you try to drive on the ideal line, which is the line with the shortest distance of the circuit. When there are opponents it makes it hard to follow this line and so you have to adjust. Especially because your opponents don’t feel like giving up their place to you, racing becomes like a game of chess. The opponents are not allowed to go from side to side (to block someone), but they are allowed to position their car in such a way that you have to drive the longest distance.
One other point that might be interesting to mention. When you see the drivers on television, look at their hands. You can recognize a good driver to the extent that his hands are moving (from side to side). When a driver is constantly moving his hands from left to right, he is constantly correcting his last move, whereas a good driver has a certain connection with the car and therefore his hands are motionless.