We need to go as far back as the ‘50s of the previous century to discover the real roots of the sole Flemish circuit. For years the local Zolder motor club had been racing around the town square and felt that the time was ripe to go in search of an appropriate location to hold speed competitions. The ‘Omloop van Terlaemen’ came into being in 1961, and very quickly the idea came about to extend the track. The name Hans Hugenholtz (and the verdict) fell, and (in a manner of speaking) a little later a design for a circuit appeared that still today, notwithstanding a number of drastic interventions, is still recognisable.
The official inauguration held on 19th June 1963 by Minister of Transport Fred Bertrand, father of Hilde Houben-Bertrand, former Governor of the Province of Limburg, gave the photographers the opportunity to capture a not everyday event: in fact the conventional inaugural ribbon in this case was a steel cable, and the scissors were replaced by a cutting torch. Rob Slotemaker (top racing driver and later founder of the skid school Zandvoort) wins de Grand Prix of Limburg, and the first ‘major’ competition for touring cars, the Trophy of Terlaeman, heralded a long series of impressive events. The first lap record for GTs was set by Ben Pon in a Porsche Carrera. And then there was that ‘race’, in this case on two wheels; right from the beginning Zolder knew how to handle matters and is one more to be congratulated: Rik Van Looy was crowned professional Belgian champion at Circuit Zolder. In the years 1963 and 1964 the well-known crash wires were fitted around the Circuit Zolder.
In March 1964 the first ever ‘Trophies of Belgium’ (‘Bekers van België’) were organised, a sort of forerunner of the New Race Festival: just about every national championship was squeezed into the programme. The Trophy of Terlaemen bade room for the ETCC, similar to the European Championship for touring cars. Belgium was represented by Ickx, Vernaeve and Holvoet. Lucien Bianchi finished in second place in the Formula 2, but he shouldn’t have taken it quite so literally.. Denny Hulme clinched the victory and in fact three years later the F1 World title. The first lap record was registered by Peter Arundell (UK) in a Lotus Ford (Formula Junior): 1’41”00, average speed 149,132 km/hour. At that time the overall track length of Circuit Zolder was 4,2 kilometres.
Once again the Trophy of Terlaemen was on the agenda, and housed an impressive programme. Worth recalling is the victory of Jacky Ickx in Division 3, Touring cars in a Ford Mustang. The F3 Grand Prix boasted some great names on the starting grid. Amongst others Clay Regazzoni and Piers Courage enhanced the grid. But we still had to wait a while to see Belgians in this championship. Teddy Pilette (this name often returns in the history of Zolder) made his first call in a Formula Vee, a popular novelty in 1965. André Pilette based his well-known school at Circuit Zolder, where many a talent ‘cut their teeth’ during almost two decades. Pilette came from Formula 1, where between ’51 and ’64 he drove for Talbot, Connaught, Gordini and Ferrari, scoring two World Championship points in ‘54 with Gordini.
Headliner of 1966 was undoubtedly the Grand Prix Formula 2. In those days the top drivers from F1 also competed in the (most) interesting F2 GPs. The entry list in 1966 (Brabham, Hulme, Rindt, Arundell, Hill, Ickx, ...) obviously proves that the GP of Zolder must have been an ‘interesting’ one. Brabham won the race, claimed a new lap record (1’37”20; average speed 156 km per hour, Circuit Zolder then had a length of 4,184 km), and in fact that year also clinched his third F1 World title. The Grand National was won by Jean ‘Beurlys’ Blaton (with a Ferrari LM).
John Surtees leaves Clark and Beltoise behind him in the F2 Grand Prix. Roughly thirty years later he returned to Zolder twice on the occasion of the European Historic Grand Prix, on invitation from Mercedes-Benz. He remembers ‘as if it happened yesterday’ and how he went on to grass, to pass Clark. The Trophy of the Future featured such names as Derek Bell, Depailler and Morris Nunn (ex-team owner of Ensign, and presently team owner active in Indy Car).
May ‘68 at Zolder ... Jochen Rindt won the first series of the Formula 2 GP on 5th May; Ickx clinched it in the second. On the entry list we also see the name of a certain Max Mosley (with a Brabham BT 23C), almost unknown in those days, and presently still president of the FIA. Another interesting fact from 1968 is that the first ever Formula Ford competition was held OUTSIDE England at Zolder. Australian Tim Schenken treated himself to a victory, Claude Bourgoignie was second.
Cycle racing is never very far away from Circuit Zolder ... The World Championship for professionals ended in a legendary millimetre sprint in which Julien Stevens had to battle it out against the unknown Dutchman Harm Ottenbros. He may have been unknown, but the gold was for him. For the second time Jochen Rindt wins the Formula 2 Grand Prix at Zolder, ahead of Jacky Ickx and Piers Courage. Rindt had a liking for it …and he even registered a lap record with his Brabham: 1’27”30, average speed of 170,39 per hour. In de Formula Ford series a neighbour from the north competed, namely Huub Vermeulen, who to this day still knows where Circuit Zolder is located. Several times per year he organises activities such as training of the Rensportschool Zandvoort.
During the International North Sea Trophy, previously held at the Koksijde air force base, the first Formula 5000 took place. Peter Gethin (McLaren) won it ahead of Mike Hailwood and Gordon Spice. The name Spice returns later on in Group C, a discipline which can be seen during the 29th European Historic Grand Prix at Zolder. The first edition of the Bergischer Löwe, during the years ’80-’90, host of the DTM, is to be found on the calendar of 1970. For a long time this event was the oldest at Circuit Zolder; this honour presently falls to the Historic Grand Prix. The Grand National for Special Touring cars was won by Yvette Fontaine, who was the first woman to become Belgian champion in 1969. On the other hand Erik De Vlaeminck wins the World Championship cyclo-cross racing, the fourth of seven titles. To this day he remains the king of cyclo-cross racing. Jochen Rindt, it’s him again, wins the F2 GP of Limburg for the third time, but unfortunately is killed at Monza, receiving the F1 world title posthumously. His name will always be associated with the kink just passed the Bolderberg bend.
Interesting year for the Belgian motorsport, due to the cancellation of the F1 Belgian GP at Spa, and whereby the circuits of Nijvel and Zolder came into the picture for the ‘highest good’. Through alternating between the two tracks, the Belgian GP landed in Nijvel 1972 and 1974 and at Circuit Zolder in 1973. Roland Bruyseraede succeeds Pierre Stasse as Clerk of the Course, and the Can-Ams visit Zolder during the Bekers van België. In 1970 Pedro Rodriguez had won the F1 Grand Prix on the ‘traditional’ Spa-Francorchamps track in a BRM, and also competed at Zolder in a BRM in the ‘Inter series’ (the European counterpart of the Can-Am).
F1 GP at Nijvel. 1972 is not a particularly great year for Circuit Zolder ... The quiet before the storm, so to speak. Advantage was taken of the quietness to carry out an important intervention in the shape of constructing the chicane, which was to control an airborne-risk on the Sacraments hillock, and which in fact was successful. Motorpsort had developed in such a manner that interventions in the field of safety were imposed. For this reason during the beginning of the ‘70s the crash wires were systematically replaced by crash barriers. In the Bekers van België several countrymen competed in the Formula Vee: Pierre Dieudonné, Daniël Herregods and Willy Braillard, as also the subsequent German F3 bosses Bertram Schäfer & Jozef Kaufmann.
The 10th Bekers van België brought good fortune for Julien Vernaeve: he won the event in Group 2 at the wheel of his BLMC Cooper S, leaving a certain Albert Vanierschot (3rd) behind him (NSU). Arie Luyendijk, subsequently winner of the Indy 500, has his debut race at Zolder in Formula Ford. But it goes without saying that the main item of the year is the very first Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit Zolder. Preparations are carried out right through until a few hours before the first practice sessions, the asphalt does not appear strong enough to withstand the high torque of the F1 cars…and there is an official protest from the drivers’ fraternity. New asphalt was to be the saviour, and Ickx helped out in this. He drove on to the track in his Ferrari 312 B2, and was quickly followed by the rest of the field. The first GP was saved. As a result of this story the chicane was given the name Jacky Ickx. François Cevert clocked up a lap record in a Tyrrell-Ford (1’25”42, average speed 177,85 per hour, for a circuit length of 4,221 km). Stewart, Cévert and Fittipaldi made up the first podium in the F1 history of Zolder. The first EG Trophy (+ 1300 cc) is won by Claude Bourgoignie in a Ford Capri.
Make a note: the very first European Historic Grand Prix is held. Ondanks de jonge leeftijd vandaag, 29, ouderdomsdeken van de organisaties op Circuit Zolder. The other Grand Prix, Formula 1, as scheduled called on Nijvel, whilst the Formula 5000 once again appeared at Zolder. And here again Peter Gethin was on the top rung of the podium, ahead of Evans and Craft. Teddy Pilette drove a Chevron B28. Peltier wins the EG Trophy.
The alterations to the circuit this year are mainly concentrated at the Jacky Ickx-chicane (this became far sharper than the previous ‘feeble’ double kink). The second Formula 1 Grand Prix offers up a lap record for Clay Regazzoni. He registers a 1’26”76 (average speed 177,85 per hour). Up until 1984 (Arnoux) the lap record evolves down to 1’19”294, or in fact an average speed of 193,497 per hour. Between 1975 and 1984 the length of the circuit remains unchanged at 4,262 km. Unofficially the absolute lap record is held by Alboreto (1984), who clocked up a sharp 1’14”46. Average speed: 204,997 ... Niki Lauda (who became champion in this year) won the GP with the Ferrari, ahead of Scheckter and Reutemann. Ickx competed in a Lotus. In the F5000 Pilette took second place in the second series. Before the alterations the EG Trophy was won by Belgians, namely Hughes de Fierlant and Jean Xhenceval.
Lauda one again takes the laurels by winning the F1 GP, a few months before his fiery crash at the Nürburgring, ahead of Regazzoni and Laffite. Newcomer and novelty on the F1 scene was the Tyrrell-six wheeler, which Scheckter brought home in fourth place. Jacky Ickx, with the inferior Shadow, did not qualify, the sole Belgian at the start being Patrick Nève (March). In the EG Trophy Jean-Michel and Philippe Martin, thanks to their Opel Commodore GS/E, find themselves on the highest tread of the podium. Amongst others they left Han Tjan behind them, who in the ‘90s became the big sport’s boss at Nissan Europe. The first stopover of the European F3 Championship at Zolder produced Rupert Keegan as overall winner. Keegan later drove in F1, amongst others in the Durex ‘colours’.
In the Marlboro Cup F750 GP of Belgium (motorbike speed racing), the forerunner of the present Superbikes, Steve Baker (US) took the chequered flag, ahead of Marco Luccinelli, and a little later Johny Cecotto (who was active on four wheels in F1, DTM, V8 Star and the EG Trophy at Zolder). During this GP Didier de Radiguès won the ‘Samourai Kawasaki’, and Hervé Regout the Consolation Cup F750. Both of them know all about speed racing… Patrick Nève and Dieter Quester (Alpina BMW 3.0 CSL) pulled the blanket their way in the EG Trophy, whilst Hans Heyer in the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft (during the Bergischer Löwe) was the first to cross the line at the wheel of a Zakspeed Escort. Almost forgot: Gunnar Nilsson (Lotus) won the F1 GP F1 ahead of Lauda and Peterson. The first edition of the 24 Hours of Zolder, and today in its 25th year, offered up a victory for Dirk Vermeersch, Rudy Frahm and Baudoin Corbiau (Autobianchi A112 Abarth). Pier-Carlo Ghinzani took Zolder’s round of the European F3 Championship for his account, whilst Huub Rothengatter won the German race.
Mario Andretti (World Champion in this year) wins the fifth F1 GP at Circuit Zolder ahead of Peterson and Reutemann. On the sideline in 1978 we note the almost debut of Bernard de Drijver in Formula 1, with the Ensign-team for which Ickx was also driving. The Grand Prix of Zolder provided some legendary duels between Thierry Boutsen and ‘Fonske’ Taels in the Formula Ford. Worth hankering over and over again it is often said. It was in fact Boutsen who dominated the championship throughout the season. In the EG Trophy Eddy Joosen and Mon Van Hove in this year clinched victory with their Luigi BMW 3.0 CSL, whilst in the European F3 Championship Teo Fabi became ‘numero uno’. Jan Lammers wins the round of the German Formula 3.
Racing For Zolder sees the light of day: Thierry Boutsen is entered in Formula 3 and wins the opening race of the German version during the Bergischer Löwe. Alain Prost won the European Formula 3 Championship at Zolder, and had some interesting company during the race: Streiff, Alboreto, Bleekemolen, Luyendijk, Alliot, as also Slim Borgudd, the drummer from Abba, and later on also to be found firstly at the wheel of a Formula 1, and then later of a…..truck. There should also be a well-earned special mention of the Aurora F1-championship (the English version of Formula 1), at Zolder and won by David Kennedy. De Drijver, Bourgoignie, Nève and Giacomo Agostini, record holder of numerous victories in Motorbike speed GPs, were also active in the race. Back to Formula 1: Scheckter (World Champion in 1979) wins ahead of Laffite and Pironi. No Belgians at the start, but however a Dutchman, namely Jan Lammers who finished in 10th place. In the supporting programme there was the world première of the ‘Procar BMW M1 Cup’, won by Elio De Angelis ahead of Toine Hezemans (Carsport Holland and USA), father of Mike Hezemans, who we later come across in FIA GT and Belcar. Finotto and Facetti in an Alpina BMW 3.0 CSL win the de EG Trophy and are crowned European champions.
Thierry Boutsen in this year competes in Formula 3 for the Oreca team, and wins during the Grand Prix of Zolder. Juicy detail: in 1980 an additional race was organised to offer him the chance to clinch overall victory. However it is Streiff who wins the extra race, and Alboreto who finally becomes champion as Boutsen is left stranded as vice-champion after having made a mistake in the Jacky Ickx bend. The F2 Grand Prix of Limburg goes to Huub Rothengatter (Jos Verstappen’s manager), ahead of Henton in a Toleman, that later stepped over into Formula 1, and subsequently went over to Benetton. At this time Pierre Dieudonné (also a follower of Racing for Zolder) drove his final race in a single-seater. Kelleners and Müller (Eggenberger BMW 320) clinch the EG Trophy, and Dieudonné together with Walkinshaw are third in a Mazda RX 7. Stefan Bellof wins his first car race in the Formula Ford. Didier Pironi wins the F1 Grand Prix with Ligier, ahead of Jones and Reutemann. The only motorbike speed Grand Prix ever at Circuit Zolder sees Randy Mamola take the laurels as winner of this far too short a list of prize winners (at least in this sport) at Zolder ...
Reutemann was once again on the Formula 1 podium in this year, a step higher than Laffite and Mansell. The formal ceremony was kept in low key out of respect for the death of an Osella team mechanic. Didier Theys takes over the Racing For Zolder torch in Formula 3 from Boutsen, who moves up to Formula 2. And once again there is cycle racing on the programme: Eddy Planckaert wins a leg in the Tour de France. The arrival was at Circuit Zolder. In the Formula 3 Grand Prix of Zolder Mauro Baldi wins, and also becomes champion in 1981. The following year he is racing in F1. The Belgian Promotion Championship brought Paul and Valentin Simons (at the wheel of their Golf) a certain amount of ‘star status’, whilst the Belgian Production Championship provided a heated battle between the Belga Capris, the Bastos BMWs and Camaros, the TWR-Mazdas and the Alcatel Capri. Drivers such as Vanierschot, Walkinshaw, Joosen, Martin, Semoulin and Vermeersch fought out heroic battles during the various rounds at Zolder. In addition Dirk Vermeersch once again wins the 24 Hours of Zolder together with father and son Reusens.
It could have been ‘New Pitlane Festival’, but it became the New Race Festival which was organised for the first time. In the meanwhile the new pitlane had been laid ... And not to be forgotten: a totally new building towered out above that pitlane. Didier Theys defending the colours of Racing For Zolder is third in the Formula 3 championship and Oscar Larrauri wins the Zolder round of the European Championship. On the other hand John Nielsen wins the German round. Boutsen’s change-over brings him a second place in the Formula 2, which unfortunately did not appear at Zolder in 1982. On 8th May time stood still for a moment at Circuit Zolder. The remembrance of Gilles Villeneuve was made tangible once again in 2002 through the unveiling of a new commemorative plaque and a work of art (at the height of the Control tower). Earlier the bend where the fatal accident occurred was renamed after the Canadian. In the F1 Grand Prix everyone expected Keke Rosberg to cross the line first, but Watson snatched victory in extremis. Cheever was third. Ayrton Senna wins the Formula Ford 2000 in the supporting programme. Walkinshaw and Nicholson win the EG Trophy, Dieudonné finishes second and Joosen is third.
F1 at Spa, and a rest for Circuit Zolder. However Formula 2 reappears: Jonathan Palmer wins ahead of Mike Thackwell (still the youngest F1 driver ever, even younger than Alonso), Theys and Tassin were our Belgian representatives. Alessandro Nannini was then driving for Minardi, and meet up again with him later at Zolder during the DTM ... Kelleners and Grano carry off the EG Trophy, and for the fourth time Quester becomes European champion. In fact the Belgians did well: De Deyne and Duez were second, Delcourt and ’Davit’ third. Emanuele Piro wins ahead of Gerhard Berger and Didier Theys the Formula 3 European Championship round, whilst Marc Duez finishes on top in the German session. Eddy Joosen wins the first round of the Belgian Championship (BPC). The first 24 Hours of Zolder organised by Circuit Zolder themselves (taken over from Retrorganisation), was won by Albert Vanierschot and Mon Raus in a R5 Turbo. Both are still active in Belcar.
(Provisionally) the last Formula 1 Grand Prix in Zolder... Alboreto wins with Ferrari, ahead of Warwick and Arnoux. Senna finishes sixth in a Toleman, Boutsen retired with his Arrows in his first and last GP at Zolder. The circle was complete ... Racing For Zolder had namely reached its objective. In the 24 Hours Van den Eeckhout, De Mey and ”Gustavson” win with a BMW 323i. The first Volvo victory in the EG Trophy was realised by Granberg and Kvist. Stuck and Quester finished second, Walkinshaw and Heyer (Jaguar XJS) third and became champions. In the meantime DTM is on the way and Stuck returns to the German team (temporarily put up in Zolder) with his Jägermeister BMW 635. The Swede Per Sturesson wins the DTM round but the title at the end of ’84 goes to the present Opel DTM boss Volker Strycek with his BMW 635. In Formula Ford a few young wolves showed their best in order to get into the slipstream of Boutsen and carve themselves a way into F1: Bertrand Gachot, Harald Huisman (ex-manager Raikkonen) and Eric Bachelart (team owner Conquest Racing). During the exceptionally busily attended Ford-happening Andy Wallace ran off with the first place in Formula Ford 2000. In F3 John Nielsen ran off with the European honour whilst Cor Euser and Kurt Thiim shared out the German rounds.
DTM starts an impressive series of races at Circuit Zolder. The ‘Saisonsauftakt’ was always held each year during the Bergischer Löwe. Harald Grohs wins the shortened race due to rain, whilst the 1984 winner Per Sturesson, becomes ‘DTM Meister’. EG Trophy: Lindström and Brancatelli win in a Volvo 240 ahead of Dieudonné and Müller. The start of the race saw a crash that resulted in a scrapheap, whereby Walkinshaw saw his European title disintegrate. In fact during the EG Trophy the final of the Benelux Hovercrafts was being held ... Partially on the Albert canal quite naturally. Noël Van den Eeckhout wins his second consecutive 24 Hours of Zolder, this time with Patrick Dewulf and Bruno Clemens. In F3 it was our countryman Eric Bachelart and the German Volker Weidler who won. The first ‘Belga Steering Wheel’ was awarded during the final at Zolder to Vincent Bertinchamps, Philip Verellen was second, but would run off with the wheel in 1986.
More rebuilding work: the ‘first left’ was squared off, the Villeneuve-CHICANE was laid to reduce the speed over the tunnel, and the Jacky Ickx-chicane was given an even sharper shape (a double 90°). In addition the first sand traps were laid and the track received a new layer of asphalt over its entire length. If that wasn’t enough concentre walls were poured, additional gravel boxes laid and the FIA wire was fitted. Kurt Thiim took his first steps in Zolder on his way to the DTM title when he left everyone behind in his Rover Vitesse. Marc Blundell wins the Formula Ford 2000 ahead of Frank Biela (three times winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans). Gachot was fifth during the New Race Festival, but during the EG Trophy won the last round of the year, and became British champion. Blundell was European champion. In the Belgian Production Championship Semoulin, Van de Poele and Martin fought heated battles at Zolder. Andy Wallace wins the British F3 race, Kris Nissen the German. Wallace registers a new record: 1’37”96, or an average speed of 154,128. As a result of the alterations to the track the length was changed to 4,194 km. Cecotto wins the EG Trophy in a Volvo 240 Turbo of RAS Sport, but this time around the 24 Hours didn’t have Van den Eeckhout in the record of prize winners they actually came second together with De Craene and Van Mol, but it was Slaus, Bormans and Geeraerts in a BMW who clinched victory. And finally the first visit from the Truck Super Prix. To put it mildly a completely new experience for Circuit Zolder.
Eric ‘Tintin’ Van de Poele in 1987 became DTM champion with the Zakspeed M3, but this was not immediately obvious during the first race (at Zolder). It was in fact his team-mate Marc Hessel who took the honours in this opening round at Zolder. First victory for the Texaco Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in the EG Trophy: Dieudonné, Soper and Niedzwiedz win ahead of Ludwig and Boutsen. Markus Oestreich came in fourth, and regularly appears on the entrants list of the Truck Super Prix ... Alain Semoulin became Belgian champion for the fifth time. We have listed some victories at Circuit Zolder... Bernd Schneider: German F3 round, Mika Hakkinen: European Formula Ford 1600, Philip Verellen: first race in BPC in a Ford Sierra Cosworth. Etienne Dumortier together with Plash and Baert wins his first 24 Hours of Zolder with the Volvo 240 Turbo.
Two major events this year: the Formula 3000 and the last EG Trophy, at least the last year with the European Championship Touring on the programme. Out of the 26 starters in the F3000 competition no less than 16 landed up in F1 afterwards. A few names: Grouillard won, Jean Alesi, Damon Hill, Marc Blundell, Raphanel, Suzuki, Donnelly, Moreno (F3000 champion in 1988), Gachot, Martini, Belmondo, McCarthy ... Grouillard sharpens the lap time of: 1’28”27, average of 171,048 per hour. The European Touring Championship round was won by Roberto Ravaglia and Eric Van de Poele, ahead of Dieudonné en Biela, and then Tassin and Andruet. Klaus Ludwig wins in DTM with his Ford Sierra Cosworth, whilst Joachim Winkelhock won the German F3. A new star is born. Michael Schumacher wins the Formel König and gains his first motorsport title, and not his last. In 1988 the 24 Hours of Zolder was held with ... 2 CVs. In this year also the first round of the Opel Lotus is held. It was won by Allard Kalf (NL), after Frentzen had dropped out in the last lap. The old control tower is no more…A new construction replaces the steel tower that had provided 25 years of service.
Start of the season and Ravaglia wins the DTM with a BMW M3 (Schnitzer). With the pole and victory in both rounds Roberto was able to fulfil his favourite role. In 1989 the GTs appear in the Belgian Production Championship. Martin gains his fifth title in an Audi 200 Turbo Quattro, whilst Bachelart becomes champion in the lower class. After the 1988 break the 24 Hours of Zolder recorded ... more than 90 registrations, whereby qualifying became necessary. Finally Van Peteghem, De Craene and De Puysseleyr won in a Porsche Carrera, ahead of Dries, Wils and Aerts, and Schreurs, Devreker and Andrianne.
Kurt Thiim wins the DTM in a Mercedes-Benz 190 E. The Audi V8 Quattro with the spectators’ favourite Stuck performs his debut, is only third at Zolder, but becomes champion in 1990. Michael Schumacher clinches pole in the German F3 round but retires after 8 laps. This did not stop him from becoming champion though. And one year later he was up in F1. Wolfgang Kaufmann wins the race. In 1990 the BBL Cup, an in-house Circuit Zolder organisation, grew out of the 24 Hours of Zolder. The first winners, the Dumortier brothers and de Rosée, in fact won these 24 Hours of Zolder. In 1990 Steve Parrish left everyone standing in the European Championship Truckracing with his BP Mercedes. Back the also Slim Borgudd (once again the drummer from Abba) also provided quite some spectacle. In this year Hakkinen raced at Zolder in the Opel Lotus.
Cecotto (see 1977 and 1986) wins the DTM in a BMW M3, ahead of Ludwig and Nissen. But it was Frank Biela notwithstanding his lesser results at Zolder who for the second consecutive time won the title for Audi. Tom Kristensen (four times Le Mans winner) won in F3. De Endurance Cup temporarily takes over the BBL Cup name: Bruynoghe, Meirschaut and Verheyen win 2 races and become champions. The 24 Hours goes to Marc Dries, Jean Wils and Kurt Thiers with their BMW 335 ahead of Hubert, Hubert and Hogenkamp and Dumortier, Dumortier and De Rosée. Philip Verellen wins the Procar championship with the Audi V8 Quattro
Kurt Thiim wins the DTM in a Zakspeed Mercedes (in the colours of Diebels Alt). Keke Rosbergmakes a comeback with Mercedes in the livery of Berlin 2000 and Klaus Ludwig runs off with the title. Marco Werner and Michael Krumm share the victories in F3. Jos Verstappen wins an Opel Lotus Benelux round and a European round, and that year becomes Benelux champion. The first Carglass Cup is won by the Daniël brothers and Patrick Hubert, and the Germans Michael Beilke, Edgar Dören and Peter Prosten win with their imposing Porsche Carrera RSR ahead of Kumpen, Schreurs and Verellen and the ‘Brothers’ Hubert. Robert Droogmans puts in a guest appearance during the Truck Super Prix and Pierre-Alain Thibaut becomes Procar champion with the Audi V8 Quattro once again. In the meantime Circuit Zolder had brought a little brother of the Carglass Cup into being: some four races of 4 hours make up the Regional Cup. And further to that: the new control tower becomes operational. The old one was not worn out, but as from that moment became a select VIP location. The concrete walls over the entire length of the circuit are raised, and the Zolder tyre walls are strategically placed.
DTM brought Alfas with them ... and rain, rain, rain and more rain. The Alfa-trio Larini, Danner and Nannini didn’t give the Mercedes pack a ghost of a chance. Michael Krumm dominates in F3, Verstappen clinching a third place. New to Circuit Zolder in 1993 is the creation of the ‘Free Driving’, later to be rechristened Open Circuit Days. Free Driving was the brainchild of the late Tony Jaenen (former head of Safety at Circuit Zolder), was intended for motorcyclists and car drivers who without a race licence were no longer allowed entry to the Thursday training sessions, and now continues to exist with the Motorsportschool Zolder (motorbikes) and Eran Racing (cars). Wuydts, Eliano and Koentges win the Carglass Cup, Dujardyn, Maes and Herreman (Porsche) land the highly coveted 24 Hours. During the 24 Hours the book ’30 years Zolder’ was presented. In this period the most outstanding championship was undoubtedly Procar, with such drivers as Van de Poele, Duez, Martin, Tassin and Slaus with ex-DTM-BMW’s that literally went amazingly fast.
Once again work is carried out at Circuit Zolder. The entrance to the paddock disappears and makes room for a new tunnel, wider and higher than before. The track is slightly moved over in the direction of the paddock and is also shortened: 4,184 km. Heading for a new record? The (temporary) last DTW races are held in front of an enormous crowd. The weather gods had something weird in store: snow and hail on Easter Saturday, sun on Easter Sunday. And Alessandro Nannini is back. Most had written him out of top level sport after a helicopter accident, but Nannini won the two races this weekend. However it was Klaus Ludwig who won his umpteenth title. Jörg Müller wins the German F3 ahead of Sascha Maasen and Ralf Schumacher. Vanierschot, Kumpen and Cremer for the first time win the Carglass Cup title, Fons Taels, Vincent Dupont and Kurt Thiers win 24 Hours of Zolder with the GL Porsche ... In Procar it is party time for BMW: Martin, Duez, Slaus and Tassin all join in the celebrations.
Procar was also the biggest crowd puller in 1995. The spectacle being offered time after time was pure finger licking stuff. But apart from that there was also the Carglass Cup that was systematically coming up. Once again the Vanierschot, Kumpen and Cremer trio haul in the spoils. Not only do they receive the challenge cup at the end of the season, but they also win the strongly attended 24 Hours of Zolder, ahead of Thiers, Dupont and Bruynoghe as also Taels, Schreurs and De Craene. In fact it was Porsche that was quietly developing hegemony….
This year is marked by some drastic changes. A new management takes over the helm, the straight (from the Jacky Ickx-chicane up to the first left) is seriously widened, the entire track is given a new layer of asphalt and the offices move from Bolderberg to the Control tower. Ready for a new start. The Regional Cup is rechristened into Zolder Touring Cup, and immediately a new series sees the light of day: the Starters Cup is set-up as a footboard formula with a low starter threshold up towards higher racing. Once again the 24 Hours is overcrowded, and the top step of the podium welcomes Bruynoghe, Dupont and Dujardyn. The two other levels are for Thiers, Neugarten and Snijers, and Grammet, Huisman and Van Dalen. Hubert, Hubert and Duez after the final race find themselves crowned Carglass Cup champions. In Procar there are changes afoot … (Lahaye)
Entirely new, and cycling appears more predominantly in the picture, is the first edition of the Family Day of the Bicycle, a happening that is focussed on everything related to the bicycle. The term BELCAR is added to the Carglass Cup, to illustrate the amendment of the statute. As from this year the championship falls under the auspices of the RACB, and no longer that of VAS. The new national championship is a reality. Huisman, Vosse and Goossens have it all their own way in the 24 Hours of Zolder, but Taels, Dupont and Cremer can for the first time call themselves national champions Carglass Cup/Belcar. A well-known name from the past puts in a performance during a round of the World Sportscars Championship, but more specifically in the programme during the … European Historic Grand Prix. Didier Theys, because this is who we are on about, sets a new lap record: 1’31”552 (average speed: 164,523). Racing For Zolder was during roughly 15 years put on hold, but this year sees Bas Leinders coming up in the tracks of Boutsen, Theys, Dieudonné … time to pick up the thread once again. The objective remains unchanged ...
Whilst the New Race Festival is up to its 17th edition, Circuit Zolder comes out with a look-a-like: the Belgian Masters closes off the national season where the New Race Festival is the traditional opener. Just a matter of becoming accustomed, but in fact the Carglass Cup no longer exists. Castrol Belcar comes in its place, with as from this year two divisions: GT and Touring. ‘What’s in a name?’ William wrote a few centuries ago. But what appeared on the asphalt just shot up in quality. Duncan and Patrick Huisman become GT champions, Jean-François Hemroulle and Tim Verbergt become number 1 in Touring. In fact an excellent podium at the outcome of the 24 Hours of Zolder: Huisman, Boutsen and Goossens win in an authoritarian manner ahead of Leinders, Olivier and Daems, and Dupont, Taels and Kumpen. Belcar is going places. Circuit Zolder has made a start in the execution of the Strategic Plan 2002 ... More about this later.
The New Race Festival receives a round of the German Formula 3 in its programme. Robert Lechner wins both races ahead of Christian Albers. Later on in the year the FIA GT championship calls on Circuit Zolder for the first time. Straight off a couple of heavyweights in the front line: Olivier Beretta and Karl Wendlinger win with their Viper, Ni Amorim and Toni Seiler land up second (also with a Viper), Hezemans and Hart ending third with a Lister Storm. Hemroulle and Verbergt are once again celebrating in the Touring Division of the Castrol Belcar, Kumpen and Cohen receive the biggest cup in Division GT. Memorable 24 Hours of Zolder, because the Audi A4 of Hemroulle and Verbergt win the race in the final 30 minutes, to the frustration of De Groodt, Bouvy and Moreau (Porsche). Geboers, Van Roey and Ooms finish an excellent third in a BMW. Audi whoop it up.
Once again a visit from the German Formula 3 at the start of the season. Giorgio Pantano wins the first leg during the New Race Festival at Circuit Zolder and is well on the way to the title. During the 2nd leg he has to allow Alex Müller through. Pantano is registered in the list of lap record holders: he clocked a 1’31”107, and with that is a sigh quicker (165,88 per hour) than Theys back in 1997. Second FIA GT stop off: Bailey and Campbell-Walter clinch it with a Lister Storm, Derichebourg and Vosse, and Duez and Belmondo finish respectively second and third with their Viper. For the first time in the annals of the 24 Hours of Zolder a Chrysler Viper wins. At the wheel of the winning car we find Cohen, Kumpen and Duez. Geboers, Van Roey and Ooms move up a place on the podium, Vanierschot, Longin and Taels are third. Albert Vanierschot and Bert Longin actually win the title in Division GT of the Castrol Belcar, due to a not to be forgotten retirement of the Viper during the last race of the year. Georg Severich and Luc Pensis become the Touring champions. Sven Nijs, reigning Belgian champion cyclo-cross wins the first World Championship round Cyclo-cross organised at Circuit Zolder. This round is the forerunner of the 2002 World Championship Cyclo-cross.
Even a film director such as Stanley Kubrick would never, notwithstanding his legendary capabilities, have been able to keep the course of 2001 under control. Whilst things were heating up under the feet of the ‘cycle cell’ at Circuit Zolder, the Castrtol Belcar revealed itself to be the epicentre of the Belgian motorsport and came out from under the shadow of Procar for good. Speaking about shadows: it appeared as though the sun had blended itself in with the spectators of the 24 Hours of Zolder. Under a scorching heat the competitors had to take on the 6 left and 9 right hand bends hundreds of times during the race. There were no indications that the mercury would reach such heights, when during the beginning of 2001 the biggest alterations to the track (in the Canal Zone) of Circuit Zolder were blessed by the weather gods with never ending torrential rain. More than one kilometre had to be removed, replaced by just under a kilometre and enormous gravel traps. The first left is dead, long live the first left. New circuit length: 3,977 km. In a Euro F3000 race Felipe Massa takes pole and victory is for Salvatore Tavano. The fastest lap and as such also a new fastest time is set by Thomas Biagi. Third visit of the FIA GT at Circuit Zolder, and once again the Vipers are up front: Bouchut and Belloc showed Hezemans and Bleekemolen the way, the Ferrari of Duez and Blieninger has to be satisfied with a third place. For the third time Albert Vanierschot wins the 24 Hours of Zolder together with Freddy Van Roey and Tim Verbergt. However Schreurs and Thiers become Belcar champions in the Division GT, the Finn Kuismanen and the Austrian Hasenbichler see their efforts rewarded with the Touring title. And now also the Starters Cup is renamed: Sprinters Cup Zolder.
More than ever during 2002 two wheels were taking the bends at Circuit Zolder. In fact this was all the result of two mega-events which literally capture the most attention: The World Championship Cycl-cross and the World Champion Cycle Road Racing. Not new to Circuit Zolder (see 1969 and 1970), but then not necessarily less innovative. ‘Flanders’ was literally right at the ‘top’ in February (Mario Declercq became World Champion), and the Squadra Azzuri offered up the world title on a platter to Mario Cippolini in October. Between folds of all the rainbow jerseys an old familiar name (DTM) stopped off at Zolder. LaHourst Aiello won with his Audi TT ahead of Abt and Schneider. It looked as if the plug had been pulled out of the clouds, because the deluge that attacked Zolder during the beginning of May 2002 had biblical airs…... Not to mention the raging storm at the end of the national motorsport season during the Belgian Masters. Just about everything was blown away, but Circuit Zolder goes on. The V8 Star also makes a stop off at Zolder: Thomas Mutch wins ahead of Steffen Widman and Johnny Cecotto (25 years after 4th place in the 750cc motorbikes). A little later another Viper wins the 24 Hours of Zolder: Longin, Kumpen, Hezemans and Dupont leave Kris and Koen ‘Clouseau’, Bruynoghe and Van Mol behind them. Penders, Goossens and Dujardyn finish third. Longin and Kumpen collect the title in Division GT, Beckers and Cassiers are proclaimed champions in Touring.
40 years Circuit Zolder: 19th June 1963 – 19th June 2003. The start of the season offers up a new initiative: the first Super Meeting is held during the Belcar New Race Festival. And this was then followed by the Superfund World Series by Nissan, the runner-up-series to F1. The year following on after the phenomenal bike year 2002, in comparison, appeared to become quieter, but appearances deceive. In the first place in 2003 the 40th anniversary of Circuit Zolder was being celebrated during the European Historic Grand Prix. Jacky Ickx and Julien Vernaeve, respectively in a BMW 700 and a Mini Cooper S, in June once more with just the two of them gave us a repeat performance of one of the first ever races at Circuit Zolder: for a moment it was back to 1963. Additionally a new event was held over the christening font: Velocity, a new cycle event which further heightened the experience gained during the previous years. Especially to recall is the first summer cyclo-cross held in a scorching heat. Bart Wellens won this first Eric De Vlaeminck GP. Next to the classic motorsport events, partially held under the ‘Super meeting’ denominator, a series of world events were presented. In the first place the Superfund World Series by Nissan, one of the fastest European series, with amongst others Bas Leinders on the grid. Marc Gené wins the first race and Franck Montagny proves to be unrelenting in the second setting an incredible new fastest time: 1’22”162. His average speed was no less the 174,3 km/h. And once again King Albert II graced Zolder with his presence, in order to see ‘his’ selection (Stefan Everts, Joël Smets and Steve Ramon) win the Motocross of Nations , the first ever motocross at Circuit Zolder.
2004 began the way it ended, in a manner of speaking, with motocross. Circuit Zolder carried on where it had left off in 2003, the beginning of a series of 3 Motocross Grand Prix. In contrast to Velocity 2003 the Motocross GP of Flanders was run in stormy conditions. In fact, quite literally. Cedric Melotte won this first GP. The Belcar New Race Festival as is its wont drew the Belcar aficionados to Circuit Zolder. Somewhat later Belcar received the company of the World Series by Nissan, and for the second year in a row definitely a bull’s eye. Whereas in 2003 some 30.000 spectators were on hand, this increased to almost 50.000 in 2004: the absolute record for public attendance at Circuit Zolder in 2004. New on the calendar was the Marc Herremans Classic, a half triathlon where the proceeds are handed over in their entirety to ‘To Walk Again’, a foundation brought about by Marc Herremans. The day prior to this the second summer cyclo-cross was held, under the highly revealing title ‘The Summer cross’. And once again Bart Wellens was the strongest. The Euphony 24 Hours of Zolder are won by the GLPK-Viper that dominated the entire Belcar season: Kumpen, Longin and Hezemans.
The so-called Super meetings are no more. Circuit Zolder kicked off the season (exceptionally early) at the end of March with a ‘golden oldie’: the (Belcar) New Race Festival. Once again crowds queued at exit 27 of the E314. The Mediagroup Van Dyck Belcar was starting its ninth season as a national championship: thrilling. A cast-iron duo, with a massive Corvette, from the start was door to door with the GLPK-Viper in the bends: Marc Goossens and David Hart (during the Euphony 24 Hours of Zolder successfully backed up by Jan Heylen and Guy Verheyen) were champions that year. The World Series by Renault (new concept) continued on the surge started in 2003 and 2004: no less than 80.000 spectators witnessed a brilliant spectacle, as also a few demonstration runs from the subsequent Formula 1 World Champions. Franck Montagny proved how quickly one can wear out a set of tyres. The European Historic Grand Prix, the oldest event displayed on the Circuit Zolder calendar was at the beginning of July coming up for its final edition. As from 2006 historic cars could compete in the Belcar Historic Sprint. Not to be forgotten: on the 2nd April at Circuit Zolder Stefan Everts started his long triumphal ride to his ninth world title. The Legend clinched the first GP. The Q8 Truck Grand Prix was given a new name (Super became Grand), but there was only one series of racing truck still active. The heavy category of Super Race Trucks was discontinued, due to a shortage of entrants. On the other hand tens of Race Trucks were battling it out to grab the European title..