I must be honest and tell you I was cheering on Dutch teenager Collin Veijer to win that fantastic Moto3™ race at the Red Bull Ring. If anybody deserved a bit of success and glory, it is those loyal Dutch fans. They have not had so much to celebrate in the 74 years of Grand Prix racing. Three 50cc World titles, sidecar World Championships and a handful of Grand Prix wins is scant reward. They are the only country to stage a Grand Prix in 1949, the first year of the World Championship and to continue every season since at the same circuit, apart from Covid years
The legendary Assen circuit, the Cathedral, the diamond in the MotoGP™ calendar that regularly attracts race day crowds of over 100,000. While their countrymen have celebrated the phenomenal Formula One success of Max Verstappen, they have remained loyal to two wheels despite having so little to raise a glass to, of that wonderful beer. Being an Englishman with a similar problem I have great sympathy. Hopefully 18-year-old Veijer is lighting up that long dark tunnel.
On Saturday Veijer became the first Dutchman for 33 years to take pole position in the 125/Moto3™ class. In the amazing Moto3™ race the next morning, he came so close to becoming the first Dutch Grand Prix winner for 33 years. In the end he had to settle for fourth with just 0.13 s separating winner Deniz Oncu, Daniel Holgado, Ayumu Sasaki and Veijer.
Hans Spaan was the last Dutch pole setter in the class at Phillip Island in 1990. He twice finished runner-up in the 125cc World Championship. Bo Bendsneyder’s podium at Austin this year brought hope in the Moto2™ class. Wilco Zeelenberg was the last 250cc pole setter in 1991. A year earlier, he won his only Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, while three months later Spaan was the last Dutch rider to win a Grand Prix at Brno in Czechoslovakia with his ninth 125cc victory
There have been just three Dutch riders winning premier class Grands Prix in those 74 years. Wil Hartog won five and I remember his last at Imatra in 1980. The red helmet and white leathers flashing through the forest with the lake glistening in the background on the border between Finland and Russia. Jack Middelburg deserved more than two. I will never forget his first at Assen in 1980 with the 150,000 crowd going crazy. It was my first Grand Prix as a ‘proper’ newspaper reporter. I thought after that experience every Grand Prix would be the same.
That second win came at Silverstone a year later when he fought off World Champion Kenny Roberts by 0.30s. Cigarette smoking and unassuming Boet van Dulmen’s only win came in 1979 at Imatra. The last Dutch rider to start from pole before this Sunday was in the premier class – Jurgen Van den Goorbergh put the super-fast Rolf Biland built 500cc MUZ on pole at Brno in 1999.
On two wheels Dutch World Championship glory came in the smaller classes in the early days. Jan de Vries won the 50cc World title in 1971 and 1973. Henk van Kessel was 50cc World Champion in 1974. On three wheels Assen born Egbert Streuer won three World titles in the eighties.
For the last four decades, especially in the premier class, The Dutch, German and English fans have cowered in the shadows with just a few shafts of light to grasp. First it was the Americans, then the Australians before the Italian and Spanish armadas swamped the opposition. It’s time for a change. The weight of expectation will weigh heavy on Veijer’s shoulders. No wonder I was cheering for a Dutch victory on Sunday.