Van der Zande achieves a spectacular victory at Watkins Glen

It has been an iconic race in American motorsports for 45 years. The six hours of Watkins Glen. This weekend, the Dutchman Renger van der Zande and team mates Mike Hedlund and Alex Popow won the 2015 edition in the Le Mans Prototype class with the Oreca Chevy LMP 09. But his taking fourth place in the general standings amongst the Daytona Prototypes in terrible weather conditions was particularly impressive.

Watkins Glen, 29 June 2015

Weather conditions that are certainly associated with three seasons occurred during this six-hour race. Cloudy, but hot, then nicely sunny, followed by heavy downpours. This was very demanding for the drivers, engineers and race organisers. Complex decisions had to be taken. For example, the race was stopped and code red issued with one and a half hours still to go. The track was flooded with rainwater. Van der Zande’s Le Mans car filled with water, and he was forced to show his sporting spirit in more ways than one. But the race was continued fifteen minutes later, initially behind the safety car. The struggle was intense and without compromise during the last half hour, on a soaking wet track. This is where Renger van der Zande showed his skills, outclassing the rest of the field like a real street fighter in complex conditions, and even giving the much stronger Daytona Prototypes racing lessons. He cheekily took fourth place in the Martini Starworks LMPC behind Richard Westbrook in the Corvette Daytona Prototype, Joey Hand in the Ford Ecoboost and Jao Barbosa, also in a Chevy. This made him the winner in his class, ahead of Tony Kimber Smith, Martin Plowman, Colin Braun and others. The race started with the championship standings as the starting order. The qualification sessions had also been drenched. Team mate Mike Hedlund drove respectably, while celebrities such as Bruno Junquiera ended up in the tyre wall. After one and a half hours, Alex Popow took the wheel and continued in second place in the class. After two and three quarter hours, van der Zande took over in order to drive what was actually a three-hour stint. And this is when the international, who currently lives in Amsterdam, showed how to race with exceptional courage and skill. Still driving on slicks for a long time, on a track plagued by drizzle, he took the lead and then created a gap that increased to one minute. He worked his way to the front of the field with daring overtaking manoeuvres, including passing the Daytona prototype driver Christian Fittipaldi. The circuit, with elevation differences of 100 metres, flooded at the Esses and also at the deepest point , the Boot. The TV reporter accompanied the adventure of Renger van der Zande with wonderful American jargon. The Dutch “hot shoe”, “Renger is going great guns” and finally “that will be a good party tonight”, were some of the comments on the spectacularly driven race and the top spot on the podium of honour that the Dutchman had earned in no uncertain terms. The Martini Starworks car had turned out to be reliable and fine.

Renger: “We went like a rocket. My team mates drove the first 3.5 hours and did very well. Safe, and the lap times were also very good, they gave the car to me in P3. I took the lead after just 2 laps and I was able to increase it in the wet. It was tricky, particularly due to the different sections of asphalt, which constantly produced a different grip. I trusted the car and created a lead of more than 40 seconds. The final hour was survival. Fantastic to be able to park this car in the victory lane”.


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