Jan Lammers was a popular figure in the Place de la Republique, a previous overall winner with Jaguar back in the Group C era, and still very popular for his giant killing attempts against the Audi steamroller in the early years of this century aboard the Racing for Holland Judd powered Domes.
Now he’s an age-related Bronze classified driver and is back, again with a team proudly flying the flag for the Netherlands – Racing Team Nederland campaigns a Dallara Gibson LMP2 with Lammers and long-time friend, racer, race enthusiast and supermarket chain owner Frits van Eerd and F1 legend Rubens Barrichello forming an unusual but intriguing trio aboard the #29 Dallara.
“I last raced here in 2011 in the Hope Oreca and in those years since I haven’t been racing at this competitive level, apart form the Dakar Truck race which is a completely different environment. But I have done some classic races, and a few GT races, but not at this level, this feels a little like GP2!
Then there’s the other thing, I feel like I am racing my grandson, I’m 61 and some of these guys aren’t even 20! I do enjoy this though, I love to jump in the deep end, to make myself vulnerable.
Tell us a little about the effort?
“Well I guess a good way to explain the effort is to explain the colour of the car. “Not only does it stand out, it’s very photogenic, the background comes from the Jumbo Supermarkets logo, which is in the same colour.
“That colour though comes directly from the Minardi crest, and you can see the resemblance in the logo. “Frits is an enormous and passionate Minardi fan, he has a number of the cars, has a real passion for the way they went racing, as well as being very knowledgable on the technical front.
“He was mesmerised by the fact that Minardi was always there, they knew they had no chance in a million years to win a race but they were always there, giving it all that they had and every weekend approaching it as if it was going to be their race, almost with blind passion for the sport.”
The plan has been in the offing (Between Frits and Jan) for a while?
“Since 2001! Frits and I spoke about it back then, I’m getting older, and practically speaking a little slower. He was getting quicker as he got the practice so we were looking for the right moment to do this thing together at some point. Now we are here, and we are going to do it. It’s a beautiful moment.
Talk to us about the Dallara, the team were early adopters of the car, we’ve seen it can be quick and competitive in high downforce trim, but at the Test Day, despite the blinding straight line speed, the car seems not to have been balanced to produce an ultimately quick lap time? What can be done to get the balance better for quicker laps.
“I’m not sure. We will have to wait until Wednesday when we get the car back on track and have some different configurations to take a look at. The biggest limiting factor though is the homologation because you can only use homologated parts, so either high downforce which would mean 10 km/h too slow, or low downforce where we are too fast!
“Our main objective though is to bring Frits to the finish. We know we aren’t going to win this race so we need to just stay out of trouble and be there on Sunday.
There are two cars in the team, your spares package is a complete, and ultimately raceable, car. Is there a possibility that we might see a second car race somewhere?
“That’s not a big chance. Frits wants to drive, but not with an unlimited budget. He wants to race, but not to manage a race organisation.”
It seems early to ask this question but what’s next for the effort?
“Logic would say that if you are attracted to the big endurance events then the Daytona 24 Hours would be a lovely race to do, of course Sebring is a Classic too, a track like Watkins Glen and maybe Laguna Seca too.
“We will do the ELMS and Le Mans but maybe in addition some races like that too.
“But it has to make sense, and it has to be in the budget both in financial terms and in terms of the time that it would take for Frits.”
Back in the days of the Racing for Holland effort there was a real sense of the ‘plucky underdog’ with the Dome vs the Audis, is the same sense there this time with the bigger, and perhaps younger teams around you?
“Back in the day we felt a little like the Jamaican Bobsled team, there was definitely a sense of the ‘Cool Runnings’ about the effort. It was a nice feeling to be the popular underdog.
“From a financial standpoint it was a disaster, a nightmare. I’m very glad that I have managed to recover without a bankruptcy from that.
“It’s not just the racers that can get drawn in like that, look around you here at the photographers and others in surrounding businesses that are drawn to this race when, if they judged it purely on the financial sense, couldn’t justify being here.
“We had some real successes, two FIA Championship wins, we’ve been on the dance floor with great people. We are very proud of what we managed to achieve the co-operation from Dome was phenomenal, and the support from so many people back in Holland, banks, and backers showed so much confidence and loyalty even though ultimately it was not sustainable.
Our new programme isn’t like that at all, there is a plan and a budget and we are working within that and still having a great time.