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Gerard Van der Horst doesn’t want to be called a veteran racing driver, because he isn’t one. Having only started racing seven years ago after participating mainly in trackdays in his native Netherlands and nearby Belgium, he’s not gone through the decades of karting and single seaters. But, in Super Trofeo terms, the amiable Dutchman is one of the most experienced gentleman drivers in the one-make category reserved for Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo machines.
Like a lot of amateur drivers, racing is Van der Horst’s recreation, his escape from the hectic everyday where he is the boss of a large real estate company based in the Netherlands and with operations at home and in Germany.
Van der Horst plies his trade in the Lamborghini Cup class, reserved for amateur and novice drivers. No LB Cup driver has ever won a Super Trofeo race, or even stood on the podium, which means that a lot of the work Van der Horst puts in goes unseen by the watching public.
That’s fine for Van der Horst, though. He’s able to race hard with his class rivals and, more importantly, carry out his passion.
“From the first moment I drove a Lamborghini, I thought ‘hey, this is something really nice to do’, it was a fantastic feeling,” Van der Horst says.
“Motorsport is a totally different environment to work, where there is often a lot of stress, a lot of hard work, and when you’re in the car you don’t have time to think about all of these things.
“You are just thinking one corner after the other and being as focused as you can be. It’s a hobby, but it’s also a really good way to destress from work!”
The heat of the battle on track might not be everyone’s idea of ‘destressing’ but for Van der Horst, racing is the perfect way to live out a childhood dream.
“I wasn’t like the other drivers in Super Trofeo,” he explains. “I never did go-karting or racing before when I was younger. I got a career and worked for many years before trying racing, which has allowed me to be able to afford to go racing.
“So, this has been one good thing, I’ve not had a career in racing, but my career has given me the chance to experience it so I’m thankful for that.”
Despite his relative inexperience in motorsport, Van der Horst took to Super Trofeo like a duck to water and won a trio of LB Cup titles in quick succession. He has developed something of a friendly rivalry with compatriot, Imperiale Racing’s Hans Fabri, as well.
But one aspect of the championship which Van der Horst appreciates more than anything that happens on track, is the atmosphere and conviviality off track.
“It’s like one big family,” beams Van der Horst.
“I love everything about it: the racing, the people, of course the hospitality and the food is always the best around. I feel very comfortable with Lamborghini and in the Super Trofeo paddock.”
That family feel has never been more evident that in the past few seasons. Not only has the field of competitors had to find a way to continue racing during the COVID-19 pandemic, but for Van der Horst, he’s had his own setback to overcome.
“Back in 2020, at Barcelona, in the last 15 minutes of a paid test session, I had a crash into the wall,” says Van der Horst.
“I got contact from another car and went hard into this wall and I broke a couple of vertebrae in my back.
“That was a big shock for me because they took me away in the ambulance and I went to the hospital and then the day after I flew back to the Netherlands where, initially they didn’t think that my back was broken but later on the diagnosed it.
“It’s how it is, that’s racing in the end, but I struggled for three or four months and then I wasn’t ready to race again at the start of 2021, so I didn’t race for nearly eight months.”
Injury is part of the risk for all racing drivers, it is an unfortunate inevitability if you will. But for amateur drivers like Van der Horst, the impact of doing damage to yourself at a track has bigger implications once back in the ‘real world’.
“When I was back at work, I couldn’t sit properly, and I found that there were a lot of practical things I couldn’t do.
“That was difficult, but racing is my only hobby, I don’t have any other hobbies, so I make a balance for myself.”
Sat in the team motorhome in the Barcelona paddock, the fact has not escaped Van der Horst that this is the first time driving the Spanish circuit since his accident two years prior. Professional drivers have a knack for pushing away bad memories before getting back into the car, it’s their job. But how did Van der Horst feel?
“Really nervous, I must say,” he admits.
“It’s definitely more tense, because of the accident in 2020, yes.
“The aim for me is to just have a clean weekend, with no incident and get to the finish.”
All in all, Van der Horst’s penultimate weekend of the year was a mixed bag. Second place in the opening race was followed by an unfortunate retirement in race two.
But make no mistake, the mental gymnastics required to overcome an injury such as his, within the Lamborghini family he has been lucky enough to call his own for the past six years, Van der Horst is back…and here to stay!