That joy and disappointment in motor racing are close together, Job van Uitert knew that. However, he never gets used to it. In the closing stages of the legendary 24 Hours of Daytona, the 24-year old from Dongen suffered a major setback that allowed not his team, but a competitor to take the coveted overall victory.
After a short winter break, Job van Uitert’s car racing season began at the Daytona International Speedway in the United States, a track he had already had the opportunity to drive on two years ago. At that time it remained only training, because one of his teammates crashed early in the race and thus Van Uitert’s team had to throw in the towel. For Van Uitert, his second trip to Florida was all about restoring honor.
“I want to thank TDS Racing and François Heriau for this opportunity”
Job van Uitert – IMSA Driver at TDS Racing
Van Uitert found shelter with the French team TDS Racing, which invited him to drive the red and yellow car with start number 35 together with Giedo van der Garde, Josh Pierson and François Heriau. Heriau, who was obliged to qualify the car due to his bronze racing license, achieved a neat second time in the all-important time practice. This allowed the foursome of the #35 TDS Racing car to start the twenty-four-hour race from the front row of the grid.
While other teams tried to get into the battle for the lead straight away, Heriau and Pierson were mainly tasked with keeping the #35 car out of trouble. In this the pair succeeded brilliantly. Next, Van Uitert and his compatriot Van der Garde were tasked with driving to the front. By the close of the market, the pair alternated in a fabulous chase for first place.
After a war of attrition, in which among other things the sister car of TDS Racing (the car with start number eleven) had had to give up, Van Uitert found himself back in first place with an hour to go. Several times he had had to fight his way back to the front: several times pit stop strategies or neutralizations had robbed him of the front position. Each time, however, those overtaking trips simply brought Van Uitert back into the lead. Eternal glory, a big bottle of champagne and a brand new Rolex – a customary gift from the event’s main sponsor – glimmered. However, it was not to be for the talented Brabander, who ran into trouble due to a late neutralization.
Shortly before the close, Van Uitert was allowed to lead the field after a Safety Car phase, when his gearbox refused service at a crucial moment. This allowed the direct pursuer to overtake him. An attempt to counter was rudely repulsed, causing Van Uitert to hit the grass and lose control of his race car. Instead of first place and accompanying joy, Van Uitert and consorts had to settle for an unrewarded fourth place.
“Racing is really very different here,” Van Uitert concluded after his first 24-hour race in Daytona, referring to the American IMSA competition. “In a usual 24-hour race, the field has calmed down towards the end of the race because everyone is eager to get their car across the finish line. Here it was pretty different. There was nowhere to wait, or hold back. The LMP2 field turned out to be extremely competitive and it was full speed continuously.”
“I went down fighting. With an hour to go I was leading and in my last stint I was able to pull a gap of no less than six seconds. Due to the late neutralization, I had to give up all those seconds gained. Still, I kept faith. Why couldn’t I drive away one more time? On the restart, however, when shifting up, the gear stuck in the rev limiter, ignoring the shift command.”
“My direct opponent was able to pass me. I tried to counter immediately, but was forced far to the outside. Moments later, when I had a good run and tried it via the inside, there was too little space and I ended up on the grass. With a gait of over three hundred kilometers per hour, I lost the car. I am extremely disappointed with the result, but proud of my own performance and the entire TDS Racing team. My teammates did a great job. This is motorsport, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.”
“I want to thank TDS Racing and François Heriau for this opportunity. It has been an incredibly educational week, which I have enjoyed. In the end we grabbed next to the win and of course we were bummed about that, but below the line we can be proud of our performance. I am hungry for more,” concludes the Brabander combatively.
Job van Uitert’s 2023 racing year has officially begun. What the 24-year-old Brabander will focus on during this year will be announced at a later date.