‘Vande’ at 70 more enthusiastic than ever

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After countless celebrations for his 70th birthday as part of the Legend Boucles @ Bastogne event, Belgian multi-champion Jean-Pierre Van de Wauwer has been busy.  His driving career, encompassing rally and race, single seaters and prototypes began in 1978, but he is not only far from ready for retirement, but he has been more active than ever, moving from one steering wheel to another.

Photo Fabrice Gérardy

“My 56 years of motorsport obviously gave a lot of ideas to some people,” smiles Jean-Pierre.  “And so, recently, I had the opportunity to cross the Channel to get behind the wheel of a Lola T70 at Donington Park circuit.  What a machine! Its new owner wanted help with a set-up in line with his driving.  As soon as I came back from England, I headed for the Circuit Jules Tacheny in Mettet, as part of a day organised by Guy Peeters. This time, it was a question of coaching people driving 2-litre Formula Renault single-seaters. In the wake of the Lola, it was very different, but just as interesting.”

For the New Trois-Ponts Rally, Jean-Pierre will be back behind the wheel of a Ford Escort Mk2 Gr.4 incubated by Andes Motorsport.  A month later, the B-Short Rallye de la Principauté will be able to count on the presence of ‘Vande’.  This time with the Ford Sierra XR4i already used in the past, but now equipped with a powertrain that simply doubles the power.  In both Trois-Ponts and Ans/Alleur, José Michel will be Jean-Pierre’s co-driver.

And then there are the Montée Historiques, of which the septuagenarian remains a big fan.  For the occasion, he will bring out his legendary Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo Gr.4 in which he has scored so many successes.  “Since Jalhay last year, it hasn’t been driven, and I’m going to put it in a hillclimb configuration with a view to Forêt-Trooz and the Maquisard.  The sporting and technical regulations of these events have evolved, and I think the Lotus Elans will now have a harder time.”

Passionate about all aspects of motorsport, Jean-Pierre ‘Vande’ certainly is!  Although seven decades have passed, he also intends to allow young people who are not necessarily wealthy to discover the joys of competition.  “The project is at an embryonic stage, but the idea is to do everything possible so that young drivers can get behind the wheel of production cars in historic climbs, hill climbs or slaloms,” says ‘Vande’.  When I started out in motorsport, I drove a totally original Renault 8, which allowed me to attract the attention of some people.  Initially, it will probably be a question of evolving within the framework of demonstrations, so that it costs as little as possible.  I’d like to educate these young people, coach them and see them evolve.  Motorsport has given me a lot over the years, and the least I can do is to give back in my own way.  For now, I’m taking the temperature, to understand what is achievable.”

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