Herman Roosdorp, the forgotten Dutch F1 driver

Dutch Autosport History Dutch drivers

With Max Verstappen dominating the Formula One like Michael Schumacher the Formula One is booming in the Netherlands. You would almost forget that there was a time that the Dutch drivers in the Formula One were more a footnote. Who remembers Giedo van der Garde’s drive with the Caterham in 2013 for example? Though during the second Dutch Grand Prix, which was a non-championship race, there was a Dutch Driver on the entry list. His name, Herman Roosdorp. A name many have forgotten, who was this driver, and why is he not mentioned in the history books as the first Dutch F1 Driver?

My understanding of when you are a official Formula One driver is different from the regular view. If you look up who the first Dutch drivers was all lists will say Jan Flinterman and Dries van der Lof who debuted in the 1952 Dutch Grand Prix. I believe that Herman Roosdorp is the first Dutch driver and I will explain in this article why I think so.

Herman Roosdorp was born in 1895 and lived most of his life in Belgium. After the war, as I understood, he started a dealership in Borgerhout, a place near Antwerpen, for the long gone car manufacturer Vanguard. As well he had a passion for Ferrari and purchased himself a Ferrari 166 MM. With this car he made his autosport debut during the 24 Hours of Spa in 1949 at the age of 54.
What is really interesting is that he drove during the Grenzlandring-Rennen in 1949 together with his daughter Annie Roosdorp. Herman in his Ferrari while his daughter drove in a Veritas.

Despite his age he showed some good results, even winning races like the National Zandvoort sportscar race the 11th of June 1950 in his Ferrari 166M. This may contributed to his plan to appear during the Dutch Grand Prix of 1951. This was a non-championship race in the Formula One.

As the 1951 race was a non-championship race the organisation behind the race was able to lure in the drivers they wanted. Nino Farina appeared with the Maserati at the start of the Grand Prix. While he was that year one of the drivers for Alfa Romeo. The organisation just didn’t want the Alfa’s at the circuit as they would win anyway. On the grid was one Ferrari, it was the Ferrari from Rudi Fischer.

I uncovered in my archive some info about Herman Roosdorp that he planned the race in the Dutch Grand Prix with a Ferrari by asking Enzo Ferrari himself if he could borrow one of the Tipo’s 375. The plan could have worked, though Ferrari decided to skip the Dutch Grand Prix which made Roosdorp to look for another car.

He found a car by HWM, this was a British team that operated in the 1950s in the Formula One. He would join Stirling Moss and John Macklin at Heath Wolton Motors to race with one of the HWM 51s. Already at that time the newspapers mentioned that John Heath himself would maybe race one one of the cars. Roosdorp’s HWM was painted orange to defend the Dutch as some papers wrote in those days.  At the age of 56 he would make his debut in the Formula One!

The 21st of July 1951 the first free practice was held for the Dutch Grand Prix. Where Roosdorp drove for the first time in the HW51. However, his first results were not good enough. He was much slower than his teammates. He asked Moss to take place behind the wheel of his HWM. Moss was promptly much faster then Roosdorp had been. He then took place behind the wheel only to retire due to a broken differential.

Eventually Roosdorp decided to step out of the Grand Prix. As he was much slower, Moss was 20 seconds faster in his car. He understood he would not be competitive at all. Eventually took John Heath, the team owner, place behind Roosdorp’s HW51. He finished the race as eight. Interestingly is that the Dutch media previously stated that Heath would probably replace Macklin.

After his attempt to race in the Dutch Grand Prix Herman continued racing and still showed some good results. After 1954 he retired from racing. Later during the Pinksterraces in Zandvoort there was a coupe Roosdorp. This was a trophy for the driver that shown the most fight.

For me Herman Roosdorp is the first Dutch Grand Prix driver. There is some rule that one who failed to qualify for a race and afterwards retired or simply did not manage to qualify for other races is not a Formula One driver. In that case Sospiri isn’t a Formula One driver either. I think you understand what I mean.