Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout’s first race in the year 2023 unfortunately resulted in a retirement. The 22-year-old Dutchman delivered sterling work during the 24 Hours of Daytona and even drove in the lead, but had to stand by as one of his teammates was involved in an incident.
“This race you want to finish first,”
Rinus ‘Veekay’ van Kalmthout
VeeKay, normally competing in the NTT INDYCAR Series, was invited to the International Motor Sport Association (IMSA) for the kickoff of the championship by the TDS Racing team to take a seat in the #11 car, which competes there in the LMP2 class. On the team, VeeKay encountered Danish Peugeot factory driver Mikkel Jensen, American silver driver Scott Huffaker and, also American, bronze amateur Steven Thomas.
For VeeKay and the quartet in the No. 11 TDS Racing car, the 24 Hours of Daytona began very hopeful. Thomas, who because of his bronze license under IMSA championship rules had to start the race at Daytona International Speedway, easily managed to keep the yellow-red car within striking distance of the leaders. Huffaker consolidated that top spot with playful ease.
In fact, after Jensen was allowed to take the wheel from Huffaker, the VeeKay team moved into the lead. The Dutchman, who himself stepped in for his first stint around 7 p.m. local time, felt like a fish in American water. The born Hoofddorper, only actively participating in an endurance race for the second time, effortlessly maintained the lead in the LMP2 class.
Whereas the initial plan was for VeeKay to drive a double stint, TDS Racing opted for an alternative plan during the race. Thus, the Dutch IndyCar driver was replaced by bronze driver Thomas after just one stint. Shortly after the American amateur driver took over the wheel, he collided unsuccessfully with one of the GT cars. The #11 TDS Racing car shot undirected toward the wall and came to a stop further down the grass.
The car was brought back to the pit lane, allowing the TDS Racing team to repair the car. The French team’s mechanics did an unparalleled job of fixing the badly damaged race car in less than an hour. VeeKay was able to get back out and drove blazing fast laps in his second stint, until the team summoned him to come in and give up. TDS Racing did not want to take any risks with regard to possible damage in view of their large gap and the resulting hopeless position.
Thus, a disappointed VeeKay had to settle for having delivered a strong personal performance, without being rewarded for it. That TDS Racing had a strong overall package was proven by the teammates of the #35 car. The quartet of that entry finished in fourth place, shortly behind the podium finishers.
“Very bummer,” VeeKay puts his feelings into words from the Daytona International Speedway. “This race you want to finish first, because to win it you will have to at least drive under the black and white checkered. My teammate Steven Thomas collided with a GT car while braking for the Le Mans chicane and then flew into the wall. The whole left side of the car was broken.”
“To say we were in good shape is an understatement. After Steven’s first run, Scott and Mikkel managed to deliver strong lap times and I kept our car in the lead. I think we had a good chance to write this race on our names, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”
“After the team did top-notch work rebuilding the car, I went out for a bit. We were thirty laps behind and thus no longer had any chance of a good result. To save the engine, I was asked by the team to come in and give up. After all, the car has to last another full year of racing.”
“I want to thank Steven Thomas and TDS Racing for this wonderful opportunity to participate in the 24 Hours of Daytona. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was nice to race again, a good preparation for the IndyCar program. Fortunately, I get to get behind the wheel of my Dallara-Chevrolet again tomorrow. I can’t wait for the IndyCar season to start,” VeeKay concluded combatively.
For a long time, Rinus VeeKay will not have to sit still. His racing year in the NTT INDYCAR Series begins next Thursday with a collective test session at The Thermal Club short track in Palm Springs, California. There, the Dutchman may put his #21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet through its paces for the first time in 2023, in preparation for the season opener that takes place on Sunday, March 5 at the St. Petersburg street circuit.