Who do you call when you have a Porsche and you want to win races? For increasingly more teams the answer is ‘Jaap van Lagen’. Last season, the Dutchman raced in the ADAC GT Masters where he had a good run at the championship title. In this exclusive interview he looks back at a successful year.
At the start of the season no believe that the GW IT Racing Team Schütz Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 R was able to once more win a championship. The car is old and with Porsche’s focus on the development of the new 991 GT3-racer, Jaap van Lagen wouldn’t stand a chance, was the consensus.
It didn’t take long before the team from North Rhine-Westphalia was proving the cynics wrong: two podium finishes in Oschersleben and two wins in Zandvoort launched the team into the championship lead. At the end of the campaign the vice-championship was theirs.
“2014 was an amazing season in which I brought the best out of myself,” Van Lagen concludes satisfied. “But more was possible, such as winning the title, but we had three weekends that didn’t go smoothly. The luck of a champion is to get in trouble the least.”
Those troubles held Van Lagen from winning the championship, but not before he raced one of the best races of his career on home soil. Together with one-off teammate Kévin Estre, he won both races at the wet Zandvoort racetrack. “That weekend belongs to my top five best ever, I think, and it was by far the highlight of the season. It was great to pass one of the best GT drivers in the world and later champion René Rast on the outside in the Tarzanbocht!”
As a result of his successful start in the ADAC GT championship, Van Lagen received invitations to race in other series as well, such as the Blancpain Sprint Series Zandvoort round where another podium finish was achieved. In the course of the year he also went on to race in the United Sports Car Championship, German Porsche Carrera Cup, Porsche Supercup and VLN. “Of course, that success [in ADAC GT and Blancpain Sprint] also contributed [to being invited to race in other championships], because everyone knows that the ADAC GT Masters and Blancpain Sprint Series are two of the most competitive GT championships in the world. I got a lot of reactions when after a few race weekends I was leading the ADAC GT championship.”
A week after the ADAC GT season finale, Jaap van Lagen appeared at the Nordschleife. In the penultimate round of the popular VLN championship season he was supported by Swiss talent Jeffrey Schmidt and Nordschleife specialist Stephan Rössel. With the small operation of the HH Performance Group the trio took second place in the Carrera Cup class, two weeks later followed up by a win in tough weather conditions. Two races of which the Gelderland resident is rightfully proud: “Those where two fantastic races, because the Nordschleife remains special every single race and to be successful right away gives a great feeling and creates possibilities for next year.
“To win at the Nordschleife is very special and a mistake is easily made. But until now I have always reached the finish line without damage and with lots of podiums, pole positions and fastest race laps.”
Before Jaap van Lagen made a name for himself in sports car racing, he dreamed of racing in Formula 1. But just like many drivers before and after him, he also had to let go of that dream when it became clear that the financial dedication was just too much. Disappointed at the time but realistic now, the 38 year old says: “Back then I really believed I had a chance to make it to Formula 1. Now I realize that it was impossible for myself. You need many million euro’s or the talent of Max Verstappen at a very young age! But I have a great life now, so I’m happy with what I do now.”
After winning the Renault Mégane Trophy, Van Lagen quickly moved to the Porsche Supercup. In the years that followed we saw him race in Porsches more than in any other car, in 2014 racing exclusively for the brand from Stuttgart and being awarded the end-of-year Porsche Cup for privateers several weeks ago. “Having raced with Porsches for so many years now, I know all the teams and they know me. So when they need someone, they often think of me,” Van Lagen explains. “Porsche also sometimes refers new teams to me when they need someone.”
Although Van Lagen is already an achieved racer, he still has ambitions: “I would love to race an LMP1 or GT2 for a works team,” he admits. However, satisfaction over his current career path prevails: “But I also really like the GT3 class. The best thing is that you can race in a car that is competitive and that you can race alongside a driver of equal skill in the endurance races.”
The plan for the coming year, however, is largely the same as it was for 2014: the focus is to race in the ADAC GT Masters and Blancpain GT Series, with possible outings in the Porsche Supercup and German Carrera Cup, VLN, 24 hour races and races in the United States.
“I’m trying to fill my agenda with nice races and make it financially interesting, because I also have to earn my bread!”