CIRCUITS: ZANDVOORT

Name: Zandvoort

Holland is only a small country and motor racing in the country has been dominated by one circuit - Zandvoort.

The town of Zandvoort is situated in the dunes of Holland's North Sea coastline. It is only a few miles from the tulip capital of Haarlem. There were minor races on a street circuit in the town in the 1930s but it was the German invasion of Holland which proved to be a stroke of luck for the locals. In an effort to stop his townsfolk being sent to Germany to work, legend has it that the mayor of Zandvoort convinced the Germans to allow them to construct a straight road through the dunes down which the Germans could hold impressive parades once victory had been achieved. This was later linked to other roads which were used to access coastal defense positions.

After the war some of these roads were widened and linked together and a racing circuit was designed, not as legend has it by John Hugenholz, but rather by a group of officials from the Royal Dutch Motorcycle Association, with advice from Bentley Boy Sammy Davis, who had won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1927. The first race took place in 1948, under the title of the Zandvoort Grand Prix. It was won by Thailand's Prince Bira in an old Maserati with British drivers Tony Rolt and Reg Parnell behind him. The following year the race was held to F1 regulations and was won by Gigi Villoresi's Alfa Romeo. In 1950 the race became known as the Dutch Grand Prix but was not until 1952 that this became a round of the World Championship. From then on it was a regular round of the World Championship right up until the 1980s. It was a track were the driver can make a difference and if you look at the list of winners you will see four wins for Jim Clark, three for Jackie Stewart and three more for Niki Lauda. It was at Zandvoort that Gilles Villeneuve drove his famous lap on three wheels in 1979. The Tarzan Corner at the end of the main straight was always exciting. providing a great opportunity for overtaking. There were sad moments too. In 1970 Piers Courage died when he crashed his De Tomaso and in the 1973 Dutch GP another young British driver Roger Williamson perished in a flaming wreck, despite attempts by his colleague David Purley to rescue him while the marshals hung back. There were some near-misses as well: Derek Daly has an amazing escape when he crashed his Tyrrell at Tarzan in 1979 and flew gracefully through the air before a relatively soft landing on the tire barrier.

In the end, it was the onslaught of environmentalists rather than safety which put paid to Zandvoort's Formula 1 history. The decision was taken to sell off part of the old circuit to make way for housing but to build a vast dune on order to protect the houses from the noise of the new circuit. This was not a great success and eventually plans were announced for the track to be restored as much as was possible to the original design. That work is now completed and the Dutch hope that eventually Zandvoort may win a place once again in the Formula 1 World Championship. The F1 circus might regain its taste for sea breezes and frites with mayonnaise...

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