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Popularity of Autosport in the Netherlands

Some Dutch autosport history from an era, which seems to lack any interest from the Dutch fans. An era when the Grand Prix and the Hill climb scene started to gain popularity. An era that happened after World War I became more or less a vague memory of the past when life was different. There was a lot of prospect for the autosport even in The Netherlands. However, people still saw cars as dangerous monsters. At least we could count on a horse, right?

To be fair autosport has never been a big deal in my country, if you do your research, you will see that there were not many races. Before World War I there were mostly reliability tours from city to city. Every now and then, some rally, trials and concourses were organised.

The very first “Automobielen wedstrijd” that was organised dates back to the 25th of July 1899 when a race was planned between Amsterdam and Aken. The race was cancelled for the matter that the cars in those days received bad views from the audience. They were dangerous. If you look at the list until the war, only one interesting race had happened. It The Race at Raayberg cycle track in Bergen op Zoom. The race was unofficial and two drivers only appeared Herkuleyns in his Bédélia and Grijseels in his American lmp.

The first progression is made in 1922 when the first Boulevard sprint race in Scheveningen is organised. Compared to the autosport in foreign countries it was nothing, though for the Dutch autosport it was a start of something. Several sprints, rallies and trials are organized after 1922.

In mid 1920s, the interest in motorsport seems to start growing in the Netherlands. While the government is still not convinced about autosport, the first plans appear for a permanent circuit. Similar to the circuits you already saw in England, Italy, France, and Belgium. The first circuit planned was in Lisse ‘t Langveld as I described before. Plans were made, and the track existed on paper it only needed to be build. This never happened.

While more and more fellow Dutchies started to appear in Rally’s and other race series in the late 1920s and early 1930s there was still not much going on. Several attempts appeared in the papers of tracks to be build, none of them materialised. Until the announcement came of the Autorenbaan in Heerlen.  It would become the very first permanent track here.

The big event would happen in 1935, the event that would bring the autosport finally to the Netherlands. The Grand Prix of Heerlen, perhaps better said the first Dutch Grand Prix. Construction work already happened for the circuit. When the calendar for the 1935 season was released, the Dutch Grand Prix in Heerlen was scheduled for 15 September. The event was cancelled in April 1935 as the tracks had to become wider. Standard was 8m, though this had to become 12m due to safety standards.

It was to be the big event that was needed, it never materialised. Instead, we got a street race in Zandvoort in 1939 that counts as the first Grand Prix. What many don’t know is that the Dutch Grand Prix was also planned for 1940. Somewhere in July.