VeeKay contributes to fine second place for Racing Team Nederland at Daytona
The 2022 motorsport season has started in a memorable way for Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout, as the 21-year-old Dutchman joined his three co-drivers at Racing Team Nederland to clinch second place in the LMP2 category of the famous Daytona 24 Hours.
It was the second time in his motorsports career that VeeKay entered the Rolex 24, as the legendary endurance event in the United States is officially named. This time, however, the Dutchman actually hit the tarmac during the race, since a co-driver damaged the car that VeeKay was supposed to drive in 2021 before the driver changes took place. In 2022, thanks to his cautious but fast teammates, the young Dutchman was able to finally race.
Joining Racing Team Nederland allowed VeeKay to work with Giedo van der Garde and his personal sponsor Frits van Eerd, the owner of Jumbo supermarkets. As four drivers are required to race an LMP2 car for 24 hours on the Daytona circuit, young American Dylan Murry was called up to sit alongside the Dutch trio.
The race start was carried out by Van Eerd, who neatly kept the yellow-and-black Racing Team Nederland car out of trouble. After Van Eerd’s opening stint, it was up to VeeKay to gain positions, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida resident taking no time to haul his car from sixth into the lead in the LMP2 class, a scenario that would be repeated several times during the long-distance race: each time VeeKay was behind the wheel the one-time IndyCar race winner proved himself a natural born endurance driver.
Thanks in part to VeeKay’s excellent performance, a race win in the LMP2 class remained a likely possibility until a broken coil threw a spanner in the works. This put Racing Team Nederland two laps down after three quarters of the 24-hour race, the result of which meaning that three of their LMP2 rivals seemed well out of reach. However, two late caution periods and two unleashed Dutch drivers later, the team found itself on the podium celebrating second place.
During VeeKay’s penultimate stint and aided by the cautions, Racing Team Nederland made up the two-lap deficit, as VeeKay tore past the Dragonspeed car of leader and IndyCar rival Colton Herta in spectacular fashion. Team mate Van der Garde was then allowed to close the gap to the cars in second and third positions, which he passed shortly before the end of the race. Only the Dragonspeed team stayed just out of reach.
VeeKay scored a notable personal success in his first full endurance race, the Dutchman setting the fastest average lap time of all LMP2 competitors in 50 laps.
“I am extremely happy with this second place and thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic race”, said VeeKay, one day after the Daytona 24 Hours. “Working with Racing Team Nederland, Giedo, Frits and Dylan was perfect. Of course, we secretly regret narrowly missing out on victory in the LMP2 class, but we can look back with satisfaction on a strong performance.”
“This was my first real endurance race, as I didn't do a lap last year”, VeeKay reflected. “In the end, I spent thirty-three percent of the entire distance behind the wheel, which was eight hours and two minutes. In the meantime I tried to sleep, but it didn't work out. I kept looking at the live timing and scoring to see how we were doing! Beforehand I was scheduled to drive four triple stints, which would give me a break of six hours between the first and second stint. That was the time I was able to close my eyes for a while. I had to reacquaint myself with the car when I got back behind the wheel at midnight, but in the end it went great.”
With 246 race laps to his name, VeeKay appears to have been among the most productive drivers in the entire field. “Beforehand I was a bit worried about the race,” VeeKay admits, “since you don't know how the field will compare with those slower GTs and faster DPi cars. After one stint, however, all doubts were gone – I took to it like a duck to water, like I had never done anything else. This Daytona 24 Hours was among the most memorable races I've had the pleasure to drive so far and that's partly due to the perfect atmosphere at Racing Team Nederland. From fellow drivers to mechanics and engineers, everyone was very professional and committed. This ensured that everyone went all the way to the final second, which is why we eventually finished second.”
VeeKay stole the limelight with a daring overtaking move on IndyCar rival Herta, who at that moment had a lap in hand on the Racing Team Nederland car. The overtaking action turned out to be crucial, as VeeKay getting the lap back meant that Racing Team Nederland was given the opportunity to join the rear of the field at the next caution, giving them plain sight on their LMP2 rivals at the front again.
“The overtake on Colton was one of the highlights of my race. At that moment I felt I was flying. In addition, the first stint was memorable as I started sixth and handed the car back in first. Also, I found it very special to race at sunrise.”
“I want to thank Racing Team Nederland, Giedo, Frits and of course our American teammate Dylan for this race. There was great team spirit and we had an unforgettable week together. If I am asked again for a race like this and if my IndyCar calendar allows I will not hesitate to accept!”
For VeeKay, the 2022 racing season continues with a race in the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida as on Sunday, February 27, the drivers of the NTT IndyCar Series will finally be able to get back to work. Before that, VeeKay will have a test day at the Sebring circuit, which will take place on 14 February.