Why bother about almost forgotten racing car championships, which were popular in the early seventies, and perhaps in het late eighties?
It's easy. My first race as a visitor at Zandvoort took me to Parorama corner in the spring of 1974 as a 15-year old. I saw FV's, FF's, Escort Mexico's, group 1 cars and... group 2 and 4 cars. Though the field was thin, it had some quality entries; Huub Vermeulen, at the right on the picture above (still going strong) raced a 1973-style Alpina BMW CSL, Han Akersloot had an ex-works Ford Capri, good enough to represent the Ford factory at Monza; newcomer Cees Siewertsen was surprisingly fast in a Porsche Carrera RSR. No two-litre cars to speak of, but in the lower ranks I found an optimal Spies NSU TT, and an incredibly fast Datsun Sunny; the 1150 class showed some Fiat 128's - and there were a lot of Fiats in my family at the time, so those cars were pretty impressive to see.
The next few years my friend Bert and I were at Zandvoort every race, watching the rise and fall of FF2000, Sports 2000, the odd F1, F5000, Aurora or F2 race, watching Rothengatter struggle in F3, but Jan Lammers winning the Euro F3 round; though always our first mindset were the touring cars.
The picture above more or less sums up my love for the sport. In 1976, touring cars were on one of their low points ever. New and silly rules robbed us Dutch from the Carrera, the Capri and the CSL. Though Hans Deen managed to enter a Corvette, it would sure be unreliable - and unrefined, a Corvette was a bit too American in our view, no brakes and that sort of things - the car had not been very reliable in 1975 and was completely outclassed by Vermeulen in his CSL and even by Kluit, who had taken over the Akersloot Capri and performed quite well. But sorry, he was no favourite of ours since his team had tried to convince us at the 1975 pre-season speed show that the car was in fact an 1974 24 valve car. No Sir, it isn't - yes boys, it is. No sir, when you opened the door we still could see the old Akersloot paint...
So 1976 left us with only the unloved Corvette and the big Datsun 240Z which never managed to impress.
Or was it? What was that black car appearing for the 1976 opening race - a Commodore? A Mazda RX-3 was promised for somewhere in the season, but this? It proved to be the mildly tuned 1975 Spa 24 hour car, the tragic race where the team lost Wim Boshuis.
I'll never forget the feeling - at least a big touring car for 1976, probably no winner but still an unexpected surprise.
If you say this is a very small footnote in racing and even in touring car history, you're completely right. So let's get on with it. Why would touringcar racing be of interest for any motorsport fan? Apart from Denis Jenkinson who hated touring cars - I still can't forgive him for that...
It's the fascination for tuned cars, of the type your father or neighbour drove, about sideways driving, local amateur drivers who were sometimes unbeatable on home soil, despite the presence of works teams.
It's about great-looking cars, it's about Formula 1 drivers beaten fair and square by touring car professionals. To mention some famous F1 champions, John Surtees, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt and Jody Scheckter all drove touring cars in the 70's ETCC. Of these, Lauda, a great touring car driver indeed, could only start his F1 career since he invested all of his touring car money in it...
Other F1 drivers include Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jochen Mass, Rolf Stommelen, Harald Ertl, Gijs van Lennep, Andrea de Adamich, Vittorio Brambilla, Jacky Ickx, Chris Amon, Francois Cevert, Henri Pescarolo, John Miles and Alex Soler-Roig. And even Boy Hayje and Jan Lammers drove touring cars...
It's about professionalism entering the sport, it's about rule-bending, clever homologation acts and team tactics.
It's also about tragic and fatal accidents which ended many promising careers, like Roger Dubos, Wim Boshuis, Hans-Peter Joisten, Wim Loos, Massimo Larini, Luigi Rinaldi and Raymond Mathay.
Enjoy the site; comments are very much appreciated!
Frank de Jong