Racing Team Nederland team owner Frits van Eerd has described the Dutch squad’s first-ever LMP2 victory in Sunday’s 6 Hours of Fuji as a “great moment”.
The No. 29 Oreca 07 Gibson that van Eerd co-drove with Nyck de Vries and Giedo van der Garde won after a race-long battle with three other cars in the secondary prototype class.
It secured victory when de Vries pitted from the lead with just under half an hour remaining and was crucially able to maintain his advantage over the No. 38 JOTA Oreca.
Bronze-rated van Eerd, who helped bring the Nederland team into the WEC last season, said he and his crew were ecstatic after managing to beat four entries that featured the minimum of a silver-rated driver in their lineups.
“Last year we were really struggling with everything we had, and one option was to go for another chassis and another team, he said, in reference to the team’s switch from a Davytech-prepared Dallara to a TDS-prepared Oreca.
“It’s really paid off well. We have proved that we are very competitive. It’s our second time on the podium and now we have the win.
“It was a bit strange for me because I am a bronze driver, and bronze drivers don’t usually go for victory, so I’m very happy to be at the top of the podium.
“It was a tough fight, but I’m so happy for my two teammates because they compensate so well for everything I might not do as well.
“There is still a lot of progress to make. But if everything goes well, we can really look forward to the next race because we know already what can be improved on.
“As a bronze driver, I’m here to be number one, so it’s a great moment to finally achieve it.”
Van der Garde, who set the Nederland Oreca in the lead battle by progressing from seventh to the lead in the opening two laps, commended van Eerd’s development as a driver.
“I think he’s progressed so much,” said the ex-Formula 1 competitor.
“When we started last year in Aragon with the test, even though it was with the Dallara he has really improved a lot, driving-wise, braking-wise, turning into corners.
“He was the fastest bronze driver today and did a really good job. If he can continue driving like this we can have some more podiums.”
Van der Garde led the race before handing over to van Eerd, who was overtaken by High Class Racing’s Anders Fjordbach in the second hour.
But the Nederland crew shot back into contention in the middle portion of the race when de Vries started his stint, reclaiming the lead during the fourth round of pit stops not long after the halfway point.
Two Full Course Yellow periods in quick succession then set Nederland on a slightly different pit sequence to its rivals, which ended up being crucial to its win.
“They [JOTA] took a pit stop in between the FCYs, so they calculated it out to have only one stop to do, so it was a bit of a free pit stop for them,” said van der Garde.
“I think we were 30 or 40 seconds behind but then we lost 15 to 20 seconds at that pit stop, because of the FCY, but in the end, it turned out well.
“Nyck did a fantastic job, he was super quick. On our last pit stop, he only had to do 15 laps, so we were refueling for a shorter time, meaning it paid off.”
The victory means van der Garde and van Eerd, who drove with Job van Uitert at Silverstone, now lead the LMP2 drivers’ championship after two races.