A wild story of tulips, medication, jail

The Netherlands has had a exceptional run of success in motorsport over the past decade or so, starting from the headline triumphs of two-time Method 1 champion Max Verstappen to the feats that Robin Frijns and Nyck de Vries have produced in numerous collection.

But it surely wasn’t all the time like that. Within the early Nineteen Nineties, a tenacious Jan Lammers aside, there was a dearth of fine racing information tales coming from the lowlands.

There are an excellent many stereotypes in motorsport. However in terms of one Dutch racing exploit, it actually reads like a script from a trashy B-movie.

It featured a linchpin character who derived his livelihood first from promoting tulips – earlier than shifting on to hashish.

It’s not believed he lived in a windmill however Charles Zwolsman Sr was, based on one in all his racing companions, an enthralling, participating and dedicated racing driver and one who had an excessive amount of ardour for the game.

Cor Euser, pictured under, is a kind of former acquaintances.

Euser’s profession, by the early Nineteen Nineties, had pivoted from being a gritty, gifted however perennially skint Method 3000 driver to creating his mark as a someday Group C giantkiller.

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A moustachioed (in his earlier years) robust campaigner, Euser was ferociously fast on his day. He was a kind of drivers that the extra gnarly horsepower you gave him the faster he went.

Euser was by no means going to get to Method 1, and even by the requirements of the Nineteen Eighties he was by some means retro. However he had a pure love of racing that also served him effectively throughout the racetracks of Europe and generally past in GTs, touring automobiles and, in reality, something that got here his means.

The day he met Zwolsman, within the early Nineteen Eighties, he instantly recognised a kindred spirit when it got here to affinity in the direction of motorsport.

“I knew Charles from after I began racing, he was within the flower enterprise [mainly tulip bulbs] and he made some good cash from that however I believe it ended badly,” Euser tells The Race.

“At the moment, he was one in all our racing guys, all of us labored arduous to outlive, after which I misplaced contact for a few years.”

Zwolsman had began to increase his importing and provide of cannabis (a drug produced by the compression and processing of hashish crops) which he primarily sourced from Morocco and Spain. By the late Nineteen Eighties, he was a rich man and his enterprise, unknown to Euser and plenty of others, was subtle and large-scale.

“He went ‘left’ when he ought to have turned ‘proper’, if what I imply,” says Euser.

“In Holland, you should buy smooth medication on any nook or in any espresso store. The one drawback is the espresso store can legally promote however there is no such thing as a ‘authorized’ supplier for it.

“The espresso outlets are charged only for the turnover and the tax, and so the tax is paid in Holland from dealing in smooth medication, however there is no such thing as a bill from the place it was purchased, and so forth.

“I didn’t know an excessive amount of about his enterprise at the moment as a result of I’m a racing man. I revered Charles as he was a racer. He was a superb driver and he was a superb individual to take care of.

“I by no means smoked a joint in my life. However I do know one factor. Someone has to import it as a result of they promote it within the espresso outlets and it’s additionally so large for tourism.

“The tax folks will tax the espresso outlets for promoting the medication. The system was crooked then and possibly nonetheless is, I don’t know.”

It was this method that finally grew to become Zwolsman’s downfall. However earlier than that, there was loads of racing available. The presumption has all the time been that he financed loads of – if not all – of his racing by way of the huge income he constituted of his explicit enterprise. However Euser questions that notion.

“Euroracing [the team which Zwolsman drove for in 1992] was arrange by Dick Verburg, who went on to arrange the MPS airplane simulator enterprise,” he says.

“Dick was in cost the entire time. Everybody mentioned that Charles was the proprietor of the group. But it surely wasn’t true.

“He had all types of sponsors on the automobile and he paid the group by financial institution switch and so they charged VAT on that. We had Japanese and German sponsors, so the hearsay that the group was financed by drug cash just isn’t true.

“We had Stefan Johansson with us, Jesus Pareja with Repsol cash, too. So, it’s somewhat bit unfair to insist that the group was run on drug cash.”

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Nonetheless, Euroracing definitely had ambition. In 1991 it ordered a pair of the brand new and dramatic Lola T92/10 Group C automobiles designed by countryman Wiet Huidekopper.

Euser was partnered with Zwolsman, whereas a second automobile was initially run for Pareja and Johansson.

The automobile clearly took some cues from the game-changing Jaguar XJR-14, together with an outrageous rear wing. Downforce-wise this packed a punch – an excessive amount of of a punch, based on Euser.

“I did the primary kilometres within the automobile at Silverstone and I keep in mind that the automobile was porpoising instantly,” he recollects.

“Even on the Hangar Straight, I informed the mechanics I’ve to shift shortly from fifth to sixth, as a result of my hand on the gear lever was getting caught between the chassis and it was flexing a lot!

“The gear lever was going ahead because the pace bought greater and better.

“Finally we discovered that the gearbox was flexing on the engine and likewise the pick-up factors from the engine bay and even the chassis. It was mad!”

The Lola had featured an outdated IndyCar gearbox and after a number of brackets had been made so as to add rigidity it was believed the difficulty was fastened. Not so.

The gearbox was too weak for the degrees of downforce generated by the large rear wing and underbody. The automobile was actually being pulled slowly aside across the corners and when going up via the gears.

“Later within the season, at a normal take a look at, Martin Brundle was there in an F1 Benetton,” recollects Euser.

“I keep in mind that he was downshifting into the Bridge nook and sophisticated and we had been flat as a result of they didn’t have the downforce we needed to play with.”

That sounds fanciful however Euser’s recollections tally with others who keep in mind seeing that exceptional technology of Group C automobile.

Certainly, the polesitting Peugeot 905 Evo1B of Derek Warwick at that yr’s Silverstone race would have certified thirteenth for F1’s 1992 British Grand Prix!

However as for the Euroracing Lolas, they had been nonetheless beset by transmission points and the group by no means actually bought on high of them.

Solely at Le Mans did one in all them actually get into its stride and sadly for Euser it was the sister T92/10 Judd of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Shunji Kasuya and Zwolsman Sr – drafted throughout from Euser’s automobile, which he shared with Pareja.

Zwolsman’s transfer to the opposite automobile had, in reality, come after his personal lasted simply 4 hours earlier than the inevitable transmission gremlins manifested themselves once more.

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Whereas Zwolsman had restricted operating, Frentzen thrived and subsequently re-engaged his profession after a disastrous F3000 spell in 1991 with Vortex Motorsport. But, Zwolsman had not been far off the tempo.

“Charles did OK, he might be respectable,” remembers Euser.

“He was my co-driver and he was my pal additionally. I miss him loads as a result of he was an excellent character in motorsports.

“He was such an individual who by no means ever requested me one element or doing one thing for him which was associated to the unlucky aspect of his life.

“He was a sportsman, he was my co-driver and my pal. That’s the nice aspect of him, that he by no means dragged me into that s*** outdoors of the paddock.”

After 1992 Zwolsman was sentenced to 6 years for drug trafficking and cash laundering.

Extremely, the crown prosecutor in his courtroom case, Jo Valente, had been one in all Zwolsman’s Sports activities 2000 collection racing opponents within the Nineteen Eighties!

Some nonetheless keep that Valente was significantly eager on getting Zwolsman behind bars due to some unsettled racing rivalry.

Even from jail, Zwolsman nonetheless stored his enterprise operating effectively and there have been stories he made 14,300 telephone calls whereas incarcerated. These calls weren’t believed to be discussing motorsport-related actions!

After a number of spells of imprisonment, Zwolsman lastly loved some freedom, simply as his sons Charles Jr and Ross launched into racing careers of their very own.

F3 Euro Series 2004, Round 9 & 10, Norisring, Sunday

Certainly, Zwolsman Jr (pictured above) was team-mate to Lewis Hamilton within the European F3 championship of 2004 at Manor Motorsport. That yr he peaked with a 3rd place on the Hockenheim finale, overwhelmed solely by winner Nicola Lapierre and runner-up Hamilton – however that was one in all solely two factors finishes all season.

Zwolsman Jr wasn’t usually a frontrunner and his profession petered out after a median season in Champ Automobile with Eric Bachelart’s Conquest Racing group in 2006 – bar a single yr within the Le Mans Sequence (now the World Endurance Championship) with the group later often called ByKolles.

His racing exploits could be dogged by some controversy as he was pursued by authorities on the idea his profession had largely been financed by his father’s actions.

He was cleared in 2016 of any wrongdoing and continues to work within the trade within the simulator and driving coaching spheres.

Zwolsman Sr was equally keen about selling and pushing his sons in racing. Famend Dutch racing journalist and media specialist Rene de Boer recollects an eye-opening expertise with him in 2004.

“I like Charles, he was a racing fanatic and a pleasing individual to be round,” says de Boer.

“I used to be doing press work for Opel in DTM and he got here in 2004 and wished to speak about the opportunity of organising his personal Method 3 group for his sons, and he wished to make use of Opel engines.

F3 Euro Series 2004, Round 1 & 2, Hockenheimring, Sunday

“He got here to the hospitality and he mentioned ‘can I’ve an additional chair?’ and I believed, OK, possibly it’s due to his leg, because it was identified he’d damaged it after leaping out of the window when he was in jail the primary time!

“But it surely turned out to be it was not for his leg, he put a suitcase on that additional chair, and he opened it.

“I’ve by no means seen something prefer it. There have been 20 cell phones on this suitcase, and so they had been all prepared to select up or no matter. They had been all simply standing in rows on cost ready for one thing logistical, let’s say!”

Zwolsman Sr was summoned again to jail in 2009 for possession of 2000kgs of cannabis, some firearms and involvement in some hashish farms.

“When he was in jail, I didn’t communicate to him,” says a wistful Euser.

“Then I noticed him when he got here out and he was free once more, he was in a Ferrari with a really good girl. He mentioned ‘I simply bought out and I believed I’d higher hold residing as a result of life might be brief’.

“That’s what he mentioned and people actually had been the final phrases he mentioned to me.”

Just a few months later Zwolsman was discovered lifeless in his jail cell. No official reason behind demise has ever been made public.

A exceptional life on the sting was over and on the funeral Euser and de Boer had been the one members of the racing trade current to pay their respects, with Euser “saying some phrases to recollect a man I actually favored”.

“It was actually unusual, fairly surreal truly,” recollects de Boer.

“Cor was there after which there was me and simply loads of, how can I say, fairly shady folks.

“I’d additionally by no means seen as many undercover cops in my life. It was so apparent, so unusual.”

Zwolsman had died as he had lived. Caught up in situations he wished to regulate however finally couldn’t.

It was the exact opposite of how his love and maintain on racing performed out and the way he’s remembered by people who got here throughout him within the paddocks of the world.

Images courtesy of Willem Staat, John Brooks, Jakob Ebrey and XPB.

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