The Dutch coastal town of Zandvoort was one of countless settlements torn apart by the schism of WW2, bringing to an abrupt end the street races for which the town had become popular in the late 1930s. Plans had always been in place to build a permanent circuit there and, in a strange twist of fate, it was the occupying German forces that laid the foundations, building a parade avenue that eventually became the main straight. The rest of the track, built just three years after the end of the war, was created using rubble from the shelled town and followed the course of the Germans’ communication roads.
The circuit was a favourite with the Grand Prix circus until 1985, when the facilities were no longer considered up to scratch and Formula One left for good. Along with Brands Hatch, the Osterreichring and the original Kyalami, it was one of the great losses to the schedule throughout that decade. From the famous Tarzan hairpin at the end of the main straight, to the fast and fearsome curves out in the dunes, Zandvoort provided a great challenge.
Before Zandvoort's inaugural Dutch Grands Prix in 1950 and ’51, and ahead of joining the Formula One calendar in 1952, the circuit played host to its own Grand Prix of Zandvoort in 1948 and ’49. In the latter year, Luigi Villoresi won the main event, but the support programme included a Formula Three race. Rising star Stirling Moss is pictured winning that in a Cooper.
By 1952, Zandvoort had been added to the World Championship calendar. As was the case almost everywhere that year, Alberto Ascari was unstoppable in his Ferrari 500, adding victory among the dunes to those at Spa, Rouen, Silverstone, the Nurburgring and Monza. In fact, aside from the Indianapolis 500, which was in those days part of the World Championship, no one but Ascari won a top-level Grand Prix between June 1952 and July ’53.
Ascari was the man to beat in 1953, too, but that year’s breakthrough star was his Ferrari team-mate. A young Mike Hawthorn held off Juan Manual Fangio to win the French Grand Prix in July, and the future World Champion is pictured at Zandvoort a few weeks before that famous victory. He’s chatting to Stirling Moss, who finished ninth in his Connaught A-type, while the ‘Farnham Flyer’ came fourth.
After taking a break from Zandvoort in 1954, Formula One returned to the circuit the following year. Mercedes was the dominant force in ’55, with Juan Manuel Fangio winning the title ahead of his young team-mate Stirling Moss. The two often ran nose-to-tail in first and second positions, being dubbed ‘the train’ - as demonstrated here, with Moss following in the Maestro’s wheeltracks.
Mike Hawthorn became Britain’s first world champion in 1958, overcoming the likes of Stirling Moss - who won four times that year, including at Zandvoort - Tony Brooks, Stuart Lewis-Evans and Hawthorn’s good friend Peter Collins. Here, Hawthorn leads Jean Behra’s BRM into the left-hander at the back of the paddock. The Ferrari ace could finish only fifth in the Dutch Grand Prix.
As the 1950s drew to a close, the world of Formula One was changing. The front-engined Italian beauties from Ferrari and Maserati were under attack from the British ‘garagistes’ - most notably Cooper, with Jack Brabham winning that year’s title in the mid-engined T51. The Zandvoort winner straddled the two worlds, however - with BRM taking a long-overdue first Championship Grand Prix with the traditionally laid-out P25, driven by Jo Bonnier.
Ferrari once again found its form in 1961 with its first mid-engined challenger - the famous ‘sharknose’ 156. The Maranello concern began the Dutch Grand Prix with its three cars at the head of the pack. Wolfgang von Trips led from the off in his Dino 156, followed by Phil Hill and Richie Ginther, and went on to take victory - with artists capturing the moment.
The race was notable for being the first in Formula One history for the entire grid to finish the race.
Jack Brabham was no stranger to Zandvoort, having won at the circuit in 1960 on his way to his second successive Formula One World Championship. By the third race of the 1966 season, Brabham was in imperious form, driving his Brabham BT19 to victory from pole position, more than one lap ahead of his nearest rival, Graham Hill, and two laps ahead of Jim Clark in third.
Perhaps the most famous Dutch Grand Prix of all took place in 1967. It marked two debuts - Colin Chapman’s Lotus 49, and the Ford-Cosworth DFV powerplant that it had been designed around. Jim Clark hadn’t driven the car before Zandvoort but, after team-mate Graham Hill - who’d carried out much of the development work on the new combination - had retired, the legendary Scotsman came though to take victory.
Here, the new benchmark in Grand Prix racing is examined by the BRM equipe – Jackie Stewart, Chris Irwin, Mike Spence and Tony Rudd.
Following the death of Piers Courage at Zandvoort in 1970 - plus that of Jochen Rindt, Formula One's only posthumous World Champion, and Bruce McLaren the same year - safety in Formula One became a pressing topic. For 1972, Zandvoort was judged too dangerous due to its fast corners and lack of crash barriers, but it returned to the calendar the following year after the installation of armco and replacement of the left-right combination 'Bos in' with a chicane, the first time the circuit had been modified.
Jackie Stewart won that year’s race, surpassing Jim Clark's record of 25 victories and becoming the most successful Formula One driver of all time. However, the race will forever be remembered instead for the death of Roger Williamson, and the heart-wrenching efforts of David Purley to save his fellow driver.
One of the most memorable moments in Formula One history came at Zandvoort in 1979. After passing Alan Jones on lap 11, Gilles Villeneuve spun, handing back the lead to the Williams driver. Just four laps later the Canadian's left-rear tyre exploded, sending him off at Tarzan. Rather than retire, he eventually got the Ferrari restarted and reversed onto the track – dragging with him dirt and stones from the verge – and proceeded to complete the lap on three wheels.
Villeneuve had hoped that a new wheel and tyre could be fitted, but when he arrived back at the pits, his crew had to break the news to him that there was really very little that they could do…
The 1985 season marked the end of Zandvoort as a Formula One venue. In ’84, Niki Lauda had taken his third world title by only half a point from McLaren team-mate Alain Prost, but the roles were reversed the following year. The little Frenchman would win his first championship as Lauda headed for retirement, but at Zandvoort the wily older man was determined to have one last day in the sun. He did, too, holding off Prost for his final victory.