If ever a country deserves a World Champion

The lack of success by Dutch riders in the World Championship has never kept the fans away, but there are signs they could be rewarded for such loyalty

For 75 years and before, hundreds of thousands of partisan Grand Prix fanatics have flocked to their shrine in the north of Holland. The Van Drenthe circuit in Assen is rightly called the Cathedral of MotoGP™. Every June since 1949, apart from Covid, it has staged World Championship motorcycle racing. It is easy for the Spanish to travel to Jerez to support the likes of Marquez, Lorenzo and Pedrosa. There was nowhere better to go in the World of Motorsport when Valentino Rossi was competing and winning at Mugello. Every year the fans have supported the Dutch TT with passion and pride despite having so few Dutch riders to cheer. The lack of success by Dutch riders in the World Championship has never kept them away, but at Jerez on Sunday there were signs they could be rewarded for such loyalty.

Nineteen-year-old Collin Veijer won the superb Moto3™ battle with David Muñoz and Ivan Ortola by just 0.045s. The lanky Dutchman lies third in the Moto3™ World Championship behind Daniel Holgado and David Alonso. Last season Veijer set the wheels in motion with the first Dutch Grand Prix win for 33 years, when he was victorious in Malaysia, riding the Liqui Moly Intact Husqvarna. It was such a barren period from the last win by Hans Spaan in 1990 at the 125cc race at Brno in Czechoslovakia.

You think that was a long gap. It was an incredible 50 years ago that a Dutch rider was crowned World Champion. The Dutch riders and teams loved the technical complications of preparing and riding multi-geared 50cc machines. Henk van Kessell won the 1974 50cc world title for Kreidler and that was that. Three years earlier Jan de Vries brought Holland and Kreidler their first world title. He won 14 Grands Prix and regained the title in 1973.

With solo classes so devoid of success, the patriotic Dutch fans turned their support to the sidecars. I saw exactly the same thing happen in England when we were going through a similar barren period. In England it was World Champion Steve Webster and in Holland the bearded Egbert Streuer and his passenger Bernie Schneiders became national heroes. They won 22 Grands Prix and three World titles.

Dutch riders have tasted success in the premier 500cc class but only with Grands Prix wins. Wil Hartog was one of the first Grand Prix riders to wear white leathers. You could not miss him with that bright red helmet. He won five 500cc Grands Prix for Suzuki including at Assen in 1977. Three years later Assen was my first assignment as a proper Grand Prix reporter. Jack Middelburg won the 500cc race and the atmosphere and celebrations have only been matched by Jerez and Mugello in recent times. Middelburg’s other win came in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. He was also involved in the horrific Barry Sheene practice crash at Silverstone in 1982. The only other Dutch 500cc winner was the likeable chain-smoking Boet van Dulmen, who won at Imatra in Finland in 1979.

Sidecars and 50cc solos have long disappeared from the World Championship scene. Dutch success went with them but Collin Veijer is on the verge of changing all that. Those Dutch fans have waited so long and he could be the rider to reward their loyalty, support, and patience.

It has been far too long a wait.