The cancelled Dutch Grand Prix’s

Dutch Autosport History Dutch race events

Only a week left and the engines will Vrooooam around the track at Zandvoort. It will be the 37th Dutch Grand Prix that happens at the circuit laying in between the dunes of Zandvoort.  The last two editions were won by Max Verstappen, and probably he will win the 38th edition as well. However, there were years that the Dutch Grand Prix was planned but cancelled due to several reasons. Like in 2020, when Covid struck the world and paralyzed humanity for a couple of months. Though, did you know that the very first Dutch Grand Prix was planned for the summer of 1935, and was cancelled?

Edit 30-08-2023: There was also a Dutch Grand Prix planned for 1946, which has been added now to the list!

There have been multiple occasions for the Dutch Grand Prix to be cancelled in the recent past. Mostly it got cancelled due to the lack of financial support for the Circuit in Zandvoort. There were during the years also several questions regarding the safety around the track. There were also examples of a Dutch Grand Prix being cancelled due to the lack of a circuit, yes it really was! 

A little background, while the Autosport in the Netherlands, even today, isn’t that booming the sentiment changed in the roaring 1920s. The first races, also illegal races, were held in the Netherlands. In 1925 the first attempt was done to build a permanent track named Autorenbaan ‘T Langeveld near Lisse. Eventually, the circuit never materialised due to the financial situation. I wrote about this cancelled project a few years ago.

After 1925 there were more cancelled projects for permanent circuits in the Netherlands. Like the 1932 attempt Autorenbaan in Deelen. There were also serious attempts to build a permanent circuit in Den Haag around 1933 / 1934. When this attempt was cancelled as well, there were even two attempts to build a permanent circuit near Arnhem. After Heerlen there were some more attempt for a permanent circuit to be built in Apeldoorn and Zeist. An article dedicated to these tracks is in the planning.

1935 Dutch Grand Prix – Autorenbaan Heerlen
Time to go back to the subject cancelled Dutch Grand Prix’s. In 1934, after several attempts to build a permanent track in The Netherlands, the KNAC gave the concession to build a race track near Heerlen, a city in the south of the Netherlands. The 9th of September the first steps were take for the track that was to be build near Heksenberg. The track was to become 10km long, compared to other tracks during that era it was short! It was planned to start building at the end of October, to have the first races held in June 1935. In December 1934 the Dutch Grand Prix was announced on the official agenda for 1935, the exact date was the 15th of September in between the Grand Prix’s of Italy and Spain.

It would mean that the first Dutch Grand Prix for Grandprix cars would be a fact! Sadly, problems occurred during the spring of 1935. The financial situation was the main reason eventually that the circuit never materialised. And with it, the first Dutch Grand Prix. Just imagine drivers as Hans Stuck, Rudolf Caracciola, Luigi Fagioli, Tazio Nuvolari and Raymond Summer racing each other to win the first Dutch Grand Prix! I wrote about it a few years ago.

1940 Dutch Grand Prix – Zandvoort
In 1939 the very first “Grand Prix” was held in Zandvoort. To be exact the 3th of June 1939. It was not really a Grand Prix to be fair. It was the very first race weekend in the Netherlands. The races were held in the street circuit of Zandvoort. There were plans for a permanent track at that point though. As it was such a huge success the plans for a 1940 Grand Prix were planned. The Grand Prix was planned for the first or second weekend of 1940. Also on the street circuit. However, as the war escalated in May 1940 the Grand Prix was cancelled. During the war the mayor of Zandvoort lured the Germans in a plan to pave a huge road for “their” victory parades after the war. This he did to save the lifes of many.

1946 Dutch Grand Prix – Zeist
The very first time an attempt was made to organise the Dutch Grand Prix after the war, was only months after the war officially ended! The 25th of February 1946 the Dutch paper Dagblad voor Graafschap en Veluwezoom placed an article regarding this Grand Prix. At that time the Netherlands, like many others, were recovering from the War. As we know weeks after the war the first races were held in France. The autosport federation in Paris published the Grand Prix agenda for 1946, with 25 races. There was also a place reserved for the Dutch Grand Prix to be held at a to build circuit near Zeist the 24th of August 1946. It never happened due to the recovering and the scarce of building materials. Article about this attempt will follow.

1947 Dutch Grand Prix – Zandvoort
The second attempt to held the Dutch Grand Prix after the war was planned on the 30th of Augustus 1947 at the new track in Zandvoort. In 1946, with the pressure of a permanent circuit ready to be build in Zeist, the start was made for the circuit in the Dunes, where it is now. The construction did not go smoothly. There were several complains about it. However, the biggest reason there was no Grand Prix came due to the use of bricks. After the ware bricks were scares and were needed. The government ordered everyone to keep bricks that were still good apart.  This wasn’t the case when the construction started. Bricks that were good were used for the rubble to lay the foundation for the track on.  Even the Grand Prix in 1948 was questionable to happen in January 1948.  Eventually Prince Bernard Senior made a gift of 20.000 dutch Gulden.

1954 Dutch Grand Prix – Zandvoort
For 1954 the Dutch Grand Prix was planned for the 6th of June. It seems that the financial situation around that time was good enough for the circuit. However, this was the issue for 1954. Also the issue that kept on returning in the years to come. As said the financial situation for 1954 was bad for the circuit. The lack of funding came also partly due to the poor quantity of visitors to the races  as well for the lack of funders. For 1955 the Dutch Grand Prix would return on the calendar.

1956 and 1957 Dutch Grand Prix – Zandvoort
The Dutch Grand Prix’s from 1956 and 1957 were cancelled. The reason was the Suez crisis in 1956. Who doesn’t know what this crisis was, here it is in a nutshell. The Suez Canal Company who owned the Suez canal was nationalised by Egyptian president Nasser. This ended in a conflict that involved several countries. It also meant that the oil supply was less to nothing in a period of time. Therefore the 1956 and 1957 Grand Prix’s were cancelled. The Grand Prix from 1956 was to be held the 17th of June an the 1957 Grand Prix the 16th of June. Interesting note is that there is another reason for the cancellation of 1957. It had to do with the amount of start money the drivers would get.  

1972 Dutch Grand Prix – Zandvoort
Originally the Dutch Grand Prix was planned for the 18th of June 1972. However, the Grand Prix was cancelled eventually. There was a financial thing, though the biggest reason not to race in 1972 was the safety issue of the track. Also the facilities on the circuit were outdated. Drivers refused to race on the circuit. In 1970 Piers Courage sadly passed away due a horrific accident at the circuit. There were already rumours going on to boycott the race in 1971. When the circuit did the preparations in safety, in 1973 Roger Williamson sadly died at the circuit. It was more reason to have the circuit boycott permanently. That never happened, and after a lot of safety improvements and upgraded facilities there were no more deaths.

1986 Dutch Grand Prix – Zandvoort
While the 1985 Grand Prix was the last Dutch Grand Prix, the race did appear on the first calendar for 1986. It was scheduled for the 31st of August that year. However, the Grand Prix never materialised. This was due to the financial situation CENAV (Circuit Exploitatie Nederlandse Autorensport Vereniging) was in. CENAV was the owner of the circuit, though went into bankruptcy in early 1986. Therefore, the Dutch Grand Prix was replaced for Hungaroring where the first Hungarian Grand prix would be held.

2020 Dutch Grand Prix – Zandvoort
After 25 years the Dutch Grand Prix, mostly due to Max Verstappen his success in the Formula One,  would return on the calendar! Behind this plan was Prince Bernhard Junior. He purchased the circuit, and developed it into what it is now.  There was battle going on who would host the Grand Prix both Zandvoort and Assen had their plans ready. Like in 1948 in 2018/2019 there were a lot of hickups during the re-construction of the circuit at Zandvoort. However, on the 3th of May we would have the Dutch Grand Prix back. We would, because Covid-19 happened!

An interesting fact, the 11th of April 1998 the circuit got the green light to expand the circuit. Until then the ”new” circuit only existed out of the club track. The goal eventually was to bring the Formula One back to Zandvoort. At that time it was said to bring the Formula One back the Hugenholtz corner had to be moved. Eventually the circuit was in early 1999. In April the circuit received the license for catergory 2. This meant that they could organise races up to Formula 3 / 3000.

In June that year Charlie Whiting visited the circuit for an inspection as there was a request to have Formula One tests at Zandvoort. Whiting advised to take more safety measures. Roland Bruynseraede visited the circuit the 2nd of August and was surprised how quickly the measures were taken. It meant that F1 testing could happen on the circuit. Sadly, there wasn’t much F1 testing no the circuit.