American sports car ace Johannes van Overbeek has found a perfect new role after recently retiring from a long and successful career as an endurance racer.
Drafted into race control as a driver advisor to WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race director Beaux Barfield, van Overbeek (pictured above) has been applying decades of knowledge gained behind the wheel of top-tier GTs and prototypes to assist IMSA’s top cop in ruling over all manner of mischief and mistakes.
“I got a call from Beaux who said they were looking for someone to help in race control and he invited me out to Sebring this year to check it out, and I really enjoyed the experience,” van Overbeek told RACER. “I only thought race control from the other side, which most drivers do, where you only talk to him when you get in trouble! It’s kind of like the police. But seeing a race from their perspective, and all the balls that they’re juggling and all the calls they have to make and all the rules that they have to interpret, I found it very fascinating and felt like I could add some value based on my experience in the various classes of cars running around.”
Known for his smarts, speed, and aggression, “JvO” was victorious as recently as 2018 in the DPi category at Laguna Seca with the former Extreme Speed Motorsports Nissan program. The 48-year-old brings modern experience from factory ALMS and IMSA racing programs, privateer efforts, and everything in between to help Barfield decide whether to hand down penalties for driving infractions or to give the pilots in question a pass.
“So far, there have been no friendships lost,” he said. “There are cases where something happens on track and we need to rule on it, and it’s open to interpretation, and nobody involved in that situation is truly objective about it. There’s just a lot of emotion because of the importance and time and money every team puts into each race, but the thing that has impressed me is how much effort that goes into making a decision. Nothing is done cavalierly.
“We look at what leads up to it. Is there some pushing and shoving and few corners before? Was there something that led to the incident, or did it happen spontaneously? There’s a lot more that goes into making these decisions than I ever was aware of. Now I can look at it through a more objective lens, and kind of see the situation more clearly. And sure, sometimes it involves people I know and like, but you still have to make these decisions objectively. You want to be very respectful because it’s really easy to ruin someone’s race. And nobody wants to do that. There’s a lot to try and balance.”
JvO hasn’t been able to attend every WeatherTech Championship race since Sebring, but he’s found the new role to be engaging and rewarding in ways that are far removed from anything the cockpit had to offer.
“It’s too early to tell if it’s going to be a long-term thing for me, but I’m enjoying it and would like to keep doing it,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the new experience and the people in race control and seeing the other side of the proverbial fence. You know, it’s also a good opportunity to stay in touch with people I spent most of my racing life around. And IMSA’s treated me great. It’s something I’d never expected, but I’ve had a lot of fun and feel challenged. And so as long as that’s the case, I’d like to keep going.”