With two 24-hour races and a 12-hour race ahead in the next five weeks, Renger van der Zande will be racking up the miles, both on the track and in airplanes, over the next month, as the Dutch driver chases class victories in three major endurance races.
Van der Zande, a regular in IMSA competition, makes his Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai debut this weekend in a GDL Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, before starting his third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona with Starworks Motorsport then heading directly down under for the Bathurst 12 Hour.
It adds up to a potential 60 hours of racing on three continents, something not many drivers have the opportunity of achieving in such a short period.
“It’s a lot of race car hours and I’m loving it,” van der Zande told Sportscar365. “It’s what I love to do the most, so I’m happy to do that.
“I think it’s actually the best preparation you can have for the rest of the season, to do so many miles in the beginning of the year.”
Teaming with father-and-son Ivo and Rik Breukers, plus GP2 driver Daniel de Jong, Van der Zande makes up an all-Dutch lineup in the GDL-entered Mercedes this weekend in Dubai.
“Ivo is running the series here and his son was with me in Barcelona last year and he was like, ‘I want to do [Dubai] with a good lineup,” he said.
“He made a deal with GDL, asked me to come over. We’re going for it.”
While known for his success in the spec Oreca FLM09s stateside, van der Zande has considerable experience with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, including being a factory driver for the German manufacturer in Macau for the last two years.
“I think it does make a difference if you know the car well,” he said. “Setting up the car, knowing a bit of how to, for example, save fuel here in Dubai, as it may be a big issue.
“Those little details can make a difference if you bring some information to the team.”
Two weeks later, he’ll be trading the SLS for a Prototype Challenge car, joining Alex Popow, Chris Cumming and Jack Hawksworth in a Starworks-run Oreca FLM09.
While coming off a somewhat challenging season, that saw class wins in Detroit and Watkins Glen van der Zande is looking for a turnaround in fortunes, particularly in the key endurance races.
“I haven’t had a lot of luck in the 24 Hours of Daytona yet,” he said. “The last two years we always had some sort of issues. The team is on a much higher level again than the last two years.
“Peter Baron has done an amazing job in getting the right guys on-board. The car is really well prepared. Even the test at the beginning of the month, we sorted out the car really well.
“We have a really good race pace; it’s very solid and easy to drive. The drivers are all on the same pace, so I’m looking forward to that one and think we’re better prepared than ever.”
Directly after Daytona, it will be off to Bathurst, where he’ll join former Starworks season-long driver Mirco Schultis and Patrick Simon at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3.
The effort will be under the Mishumotors banner but run by veteran Australian outfit Erebus Racing.
“I’ve never done Bathurst,” van der Zande said. “It’s an amazing place I’ve heard. For me, it looks like a combination of Macau and the Nordschleife. I know both of those tracks, so it will be really cool to tick that box and be in Bathurst.
“When we told everyone we were going to Bathurst, it was amazing the reaction we got. It’s a place a lot of people like to watch and get involved with.”
While ticking off two new events, van der Zande admits it may not be his busiest schedule yet.
“Last year I had two months in a row where I was driving every weekend, so it was a lot,” he said. “But this, is a thriller with all of the long-distance races.
“That’s a tough one. You need two days to recover after such a race. I’m staying here for a day in Dubai to have a rest for sure.”