Racing Team Nederland’s owner and Bronze driver Frits van Eerd is now set to take on all of the remaining rounds in the 2019/20 FIA WEC season, RACER has learned.
Originally van Eerd intended to miss next month’s Shanghai round due to business commitments. There, fellow Dutchman Job van Uitert was to stand in as he did in the Silverstone season opener where he subbed for Formula 2 star Nyck de Vries.
But, the team’s strong start to the season at Silverstone (where it finished on the podium) prompted van Eerd to find a way to race in China and therefore take part in the full campaign, making him eligible to challenge for the title. The decision for him to race in China was made prior to scoring the LMP2 class win at Fuji Speedway, driver Giedo van der Garde told RACER.
“Yes, he (Frits) will be Shanghai; he will do all the races this year,” van der Garde said after yesterday’s victory in Japan. “Because now he’s getting excited.”
After the team’s success in the opening two rounds, do the drivers feel they can challenge for the LMP2 title? Van der Garde said that is not something on their minds just yet.
“The title thing is far away to be honest. Some races we will get some bad luck. I mean, the good result at Silverstone and the win here — it’s crazy. We’re not really thinking about (the title). If it happens, of course, it’s fantastic — it’s a dream come true. We had a podium in the first race and that was our goal for this year. We’ve already achieved our goal.
“On the podium at the first race, and then the second race, Nyck is back and we suddenly win a race? It’s a bit crazy.”
This sudden uptick in performance, van der Garde noted, is down to a combination of three things: the change of chassis from Dallara to ORECA; the switch to TDS running the program; and van Eerd’s continued progress as a driver.
“Frits started the program in 2017,” van der Garde explained. “Towards the end of that year, they asked me to join them, because, you know, I had experience with endurance and I was champion in 2016 in the European Le Mans Series.
“We have worked on his race craft a lot since then — especially last year. But we saw every time that we were slower compared to an ORECA and the Dallara wasn’t the best chassis. It was always slower, like five, six tenths. I knew that Nyck was one of the quickest in the field. I was reasonably quick. But every time we couldn’t attack the ORECAs.
“It was also the right move to go to TDS. So in the end, I think the package (now) is right. It’s the right team, and Frits is improving.”
De Vries agreed that the aforementioned changes have made a huge difference this year. Fresh from a standout performance at Fuji in which he was the fastest driver in LMP2 for much of his three-hour stint and held off a strong challenge from Anthony Davidson in the final hour, de Vries said the team now feels like it is operating at a world championship level.
“Last year we were in the shadows because we were in a Dallara and the team, to me, wasn’t at the level it should have been racing in FIA WEC,” he said.
“I always put effort into my work and I expect that from those around me. Last year we weren’t on the same page, so it was the correct decision to move to TDS and the ORECA chassis. (At Fuji), the car was amazing.
“I just did my job today,” de Vries continued. “I was just hoping for a podium because I missed (the race at) Silverstone. To score a win with Frits is surreal, really. He is so passionate about motorsport and cars; he deserves this more than any of us.”