Editors: Marcel Visbeen, Dennis Drenthe, Mattijs Diepraam. Feedback: feedback#carelgodindebeaufort.nl (# = @). This tribute site is in no way connected to the Beaufort family.

Gerard van Lennep on his time with Carel:

“What you saw was what you got”

Unloved with officialdom, loved by his peers. That is Gerard van Lennep’s view of the racing driver he first met during a driving course at the Nürburgring in 1962. The two became best mates. Carel had no hidden agendas, according to Van Lennep. He tells dB about their relationship and their adventures.

Before they met eye to eye Van Lennep held Carel in high regard. “He was my hero. I was about to start my racing career and he was the Formula 1 racer, the one man whose level I could hardly ever reach. Then when we first met he singled me out for my manner of driving, which was immensely flattering.” It happened at the best of places – the gloriously difficult Nürburgring. Carel was the teacher, Van Lennep one of his pupils. “I was 32 at the time and at that relatively late age had just decided to do some racing. I’d driven sports cars on the road, of course, as boys do when given the opportunity, but this was something else.”

“So there I was at the ‘Ring, taking this driving course at the racing school where Carel was teaching – and Rob Slotemaker as well, as a matter of fact. I’d already seen Carel in the paddock, on his Norwegian knitted socks. He was walking like an 82-year-old! I knew why – it was the familiar story of his lanky frame not fitting into the Porsche. The car had been adapted already but there was nothing they could do about the distance between the rear bulkhead and the pedals in the front. So he simply had to wear socks instead of shoes. And he just did that, even if it meant burning his feet. There were no complaints, just as when he drove lap after lap in a sportscar race at the Nürburgring, his behind soaked in fuel that had leaked. So when co-driver Thieu Hezemans came back to the pits after just two laps, he pummelled him on his way again! He couldn’t imagine others not being as tough as he was.”

Carel’s racing style still inspires awe with Van Lennep. “He was an incredible driver, much better in fact than he is often given credit for. He was doing the same lap times in Moss’s old Porsche in a car that was three years older than at the time Moss had been driving it, and at twice Moss’s weight! His style also reminded me of Stirling. It wasn’t spectacular at all but he drove inch-perfect, lap after lap, always in control, keeping a small margin for error. That’s the way he taught his pupils. He’d put a matchbox filled with sand in the apex and told us to precisely clip it. I was rather good at it, which was perhaps why I got noticed.” Indeed, Van Lennep showed pretty well during the course and even received a prize for his efforts. “Afterwards Carel walked up to me and said in his blunt, straightforward manner: ‘We are going racing together’. He wasn’t the sort of guy to beat around the bush. From that moment we just stuck together.”

No eye for diplomacy
“He was a strange fellow”, Van Lennep surmises. “But in a good way. He had this peculiar sense of humour, which many people didn’t find amusing. He was funny in the sense that people are funny when they are totally convinced of their own sense of humour. I found that disarming. With Carel, there were no hidden agendas. What you saw was what you got. And it got him into trouble time and again, especially with the blah-blah type blazers.” There was no love lost between Carel and officialdom, confirms Van Lennep. “He was a bit of an oddball, had no eye for diplomacy and was chasing skirt all of the time. That’s not the way to endear yourself with the sporting authorities or with the press. And that’s what you had to do in those days if you wanted to go places – getting yourself liked at the KNAC and at, for instance, Autovisie magazine. So yes, he was my Formula 1 hero but that’s wasn’t the image portrayed to the public. He wasn’t idolised at all for being Holland’s most successful Grand Prix driver.”

It couldn’t have been more different amongst his peers, states Van Lennep. “His F1 colleagues liked him enormously – and that’s not just because of the infamous parties he threw at Maarsbergen Castle! They all knew what a good driver he was. And they respected him because he wasn’t driving dangerously. Although he was a backmarker for most of his Grand Prix career there was never any complaint.”

‘You’re not really helping here!’
Van Lennep is still amazed by the contrast between Carel Godin de Beaufort the racing driver and Carel Godin de Beaufort the road driver. “He was simply reckless on the open road. I still vividly remember the occasion when we went to collect two new cars from Germany, each of us driving a car-and-trailer combination. As could be expected, Carel didn’t have the paperwork for either of the cars so on our return to the Netherlands we had to cross the border at some place in the middle of the woods, in order not to get stopped at the border. But he was driving so insanely fast, even with his trailer carrying the new car, there was no way I could follow him! So he disappeared out of sight and, inevitably, I got lost. Eventually I just parked it and waited, somewhere in those border woodlands. Finally, after an hour’s waiting, he returned to pick me up. “Come on, Gerard”, he said. “I’ve already crossed the border twice. You’re not really helping here!”

Another occasion was when they went to collect an award in Brussels, and took judo champion and physics coach Anton Geesink along. “We went to get Anton, driving Carel’s big Venezuelan-plated Chevy Impala, and I was at the wheel. Soon after Anton got in Carel guided me from the main roads to travel to the South across the narrow dyke roads we have here in Holland. At great speed, of course, Carel spurring me on to go even faster. Just to see the look on Anton’s face…” Carel found a soul mate in Dutch touring car legend Rob Slotemaker, who was to have his Grand Prix debut at Zandvoort in 1962 in a Maarsbergen Porsche before the plan fell through at the last moment. “Rob and Carel shared that same utter conviction of themselves, with the difference that Rob wasn’t funny! I remember a magic act at Zandvoort that just went on and on, but you kept watching because it was Rob. Both were public-road daredevils as well. On the way to Reims, they would scare French peasants in their 2CVs by overtaking them on both sides simultaneously.”

Independent and always short on money
Somewhere during 1964 Carel made a decision and told Gerard. “He said ‘We are going to do Le Mans together’ and arranged for the car.” This would be a 904 GTS, one example of which Van Lennep managed to wreck while testing at Zandvoort. “Mrs de Beaufort is still holding that against me, but Carel simply laughed it off. He thought it was hilarious.“ The car was scheduled to run under the Racing Team Holland banner but Van Lennep is unsure whether that liaison would have been for real. “I wasn’t well received at RTH, and I’m not sure whether Carel would have given up his independence.” This fits with the recent hypothesis made in Rob Wiedenhoff and Ed Heuvink’s Racing Team Holland book that RTH founder Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema only used Carel’s name for publicity purposes in a way to gather more funding for the project.

Carel not worrying about Van Lennep wrecking the 904 was even more remarkable considering the fact that Carel’s sister Cornelie had not yet arranged insurance. “It cost him a lot of money but he didn’t care”, Van Lennep says. “And mind you, he was penniless! Abroad, he liked to uphold the image of being a ‘count’ but the fact was that he was living a hand-to-mouth existence. He had twenty jerrycans fitted under his trailer, to be filled at the free petrol stations in the pits during races. Yes, he had the motel but that was mostly run by his mother and sister, and I can’t imagine enough money ever having come out of that to run his motor racing endeavours. I remember taking detours in Germany for cheap lunches. He spent every penny wisely. Fortunately, because he was so loved, everyone helped him. That was an extraordinary thing in a racing world that was rapidly professionalising.”

A different view on safety
Carel didn’t talk about the risks of being a racing driver. “In those days, safety wasn’t an issue”, states Van Lennep. “Carel and Rob agreed that you only wore a helmet because the KNAC said so. And of course you didn’t tie your chin strap – you’d be a sissy. Carel was once black-flagged in practice for driving while smoking a cigarette. And he didn’t even smoke! So that was just another case of Carel winding up the authorities.” Van Lennep himself disagreed with the common view on safety in the sixties and did everything he could to improve safety when he became a rallycross organiser at the start of the seventies. “Carel’s death was totally unnecessary. He was joking with the rescue crew in the helicopter! If there had been an emergency room at the track he’d still be alive today. It was the same at Zandvoort, where safety was in the hands of amateurs, leading to the tragic deaths of Lambert, Courage and Williamson. The fire brigade was an amateur brigade, the chief was a handicraft teacher for kids. They were way out of their depth at a Grand Prix. The track doctor was afraid of the sight of blood, for crying out loud! In my ten years of organising rallycross events I’ve had to deal with one broken nose and one broken thumb. There was so much to be gained, simply by implementing effective safety procedures.”

After Carel died, Van Lennep continued racing into the late sixties, using his Steyr-Puch to win the ’66 and ’67 national 850cc touring car titles. His cousins Gijs, David and Hugo started racing around the same time. Gijs quickly developed into an amazing talent. “When we all started I was the best among the four of us. David and Hugo managed to raise their level to be my equal but Gijs was from another world. We were both endurance racers at heart, which is why I became successful in rallying, but in that respect Gijs’s abilities were off the scale. You don’t win Le Mans twice for nothing.” Meanwhile, Van Lennep started a career in motoring journalism, at first combining it with his track activities, before making the transition to the mainstream media, becoming a journalist and columnist for newspapers such as Het Parool and NRC/Handelsblad and magazines HP, Elsevier, Intermagazine and Avenue. Today, Van Lennep is still running the entertainment agency he started in the late sixties. As for cars, he is strictly keeping to the speed limit these days and has no involvement whatsoever left in motoring circles. “My only remaining automotive vice, which is giving me enormous joy, is driving in classic cars with friends to places like Kyrgyzstan and Tibet.” But ask him to tell you about Carel and it all comes flowing back…

digging deep into his life and after-life

This section features longer articles that study parts of life or go deeper into his legacy.