Johannes van Overbeek will hang up the helmet following next weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans, having announced his retirement from top-level professional racing.
The most recent winner in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition confirmed to Sportscar365 that the ten-hour Road Atlanta enduro will be his last as a full-time driver following an illustrious two-plus decade career.
“I’ve been racing for 22 years, had some great success but I’m 45,” van Overbeek said. “The Patron [ESM] organization is changing so I figured it’s the perfect time to end on a high.”
The Californian, who achieved overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2017, while also returning to victory lane at Sebring this year with Tequila Patron ESM, revealed that he was planning to retire at the end of 2017.
However, longtime co-driver and Patron Spirits President and CEO Ed Brown convinced him to remain on board the Scott Sharp-owned team for one additional year.
“I talked to Ed and he said, ‘Hey, you started with the team, how about ending with the [end of the Patron] relationship, and I thought, ‘Sure, you have a deal,'” van Overbeek said.
The 2018 season has seen van Overbeek and co-driver Pipo Derani deliver wins at Sebring and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, capping off his successful mid-career transition to prototype racing.
As one of the founding partners in Flying Lizard Motorsports, van Overbeek burst into the American Le Mans Series in 2005, giving the team its first-ever ALMS victory and winning the prestigious Porsche Cup in 2007.
Van Overbeek made the switch to the upstart ESM operation in 2010, initially in the team’s Ferrari GT machinery prior to a switch to prototypes three years later that also included a stint in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“Helping start Flying Lizard and having a lot of success with them and getting to work with all the [Porsche] factory drivers, I learned a lot from them,” van Overbeek said.
“I never thought leaving Flying Lizard to go to ESM I’d never have a shot of winning Daytona overall or Sebring twice overall, and leading big races. As a driver, you grow up dreaming about it so it was a dream come true.
“I feel very fortunate and can’t thank Scott and Ed and Patron enough for the opportunities.”
Van Overbeek said he’ll be treating Petit Le Mans as “just another race” but said he’s hopeful of ending his pro career on a high note.
The team heads into the ten-hour enduro as defending race winners, with van Overbeek and Derani hot off their second victory of the season last month at Laguna Seca.
“I’ve got a lot of people coming out, which is touching,” van Overbeek said.
“I have no regrets. I’ve had a lot of great experiences and working with some great people. I’ve seen a lot of the world. It couldn’t have been any better for me.”
Despite his full-time racing career coming to an end, van Overbeek said he hasn’t ruled out taking part in long distance races in the future, as well as club and vintage events.
Van Overbeek Targeting Future in Autonomous Vehicle Industry
A future in the autonomous vehicle industry could be in the cards for van Overbeek, who is looking to break into the emerging tech sector to utilize his expertise in motorsports.
The 45-year-old said he’s currently eyeing investments in companies developing driverless technology.
“With my proximity to Silicon Valley, it makes sense,” van Overbeek said. “There’s a lot of people trying to solve big problems.
“I’ve been in a risky profession for a long time, so why not continue on in another risky profession? But in a different way.”
Van Overbeek said he sees autonomous vehicles and e-mobility as the wave of the future.
“It’s happening,” he said. “As a cyclist, I love it, because I wouldn’t have to worry about someone who’s texting [and driving].
“There are some mistakes but far fewer than the mistakes that are made by humans who are drunk or distracted.
“Nobody talks about the nearly 40,000 people each year die on the roads in the United States. That’s like a 737 [plane] crashing on a regular basis.
“The difficulty is leveraging my experience in motorsports and making that something you can monetize in a different industry.”