Series staples Gijs Bessem and Harry Hilders have urged competitors new to the 24H SERIES to “have fun” while they’re racing, and cite an occasion in 2019 when their antics could have landed them in hot water with Wegenwacht, The Netherlands’ foremost roadside assistance agency!
Words – James Gent
Images – Petr Frýba
Long-time teammates Gijs Bessem and Harry Hilders recently explained how a bespoke livery on the CUPRA TCR they entered for the CREVENTIC-organized TCR SPA 500 in 2019 caught the eye of one of Europe’s biggest roadside assistance agencies, Wegenwacht.
The Dutch teammates are among the 24H SERIES’ most tenured competitors with close to 50 event entries to their names, Hilders having made his first start at the 24H DUBAI in 2011, Bessem at the 24H BARCELONA two years later. The pair regularly compete under the NKPP Racing banner, and in 2019 made the step across from TCR to Porsche 911 competition.
Speaking with CREVENTIC for a ‘Head-to-Head’ interview, both Bessem and Hilders were keen to point out that competitors joining the 24H SERIES should take their racing and their pre-event preparation seriously, but that enjoying the weekend was equally as important.
“Have fun, and don’t take things too seriously,” Bessem begins. “When you’re racing, always remember it’s an endurance race. It’s 12 or 24 hours. That means the actual race starts, in the case of a 24-hour race, after 22 hours, or with a 12-hour, it’s after 10 hours. So, it’s not about always setting the fastest lap. It’s about having fun and making sure you’re there at the end of the race.”
“It’s important is to be very sporting,” Hilders continues. “You have to have a good attitude: if someone is faster than you, you have to accept that, and not try to block them or create problems for both of you. This is a sport that’s not without risk, so have to keep your mind in the game.”
“Yeah, you can be happy for the results of other people [you’re competing against].” – Bessem – “Y’know, s*** happens. Somebody can hit you, there are mechanical problems, etc. You cannot help it. So you have to remember to enjoy the race while you’re can.”
An example they cite came at the TCR SPA 500 in 2019, when the Dutch pair were teamed with Jaap van Lagen and 2017 Overall GT Drivers’ champion Christiaan Frankenhout for the 23-hour, touring car-exclusive event around Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Having once again opted not to outfit their Bas Koeten Racing-run, NKPP Racing-entered CUPRA TCR with sponsor decals, Bessem and Hilders opted instead for a livery inspired by Wegenwacht, an eminent roadside assistance agency based in The Netherlands. A fact of which Wegenwacht was only aware after the #175 CUPRA qualified on pole position!
“We don’t tend to have any advertisement on our car.” – Hilders – “The only thing we have is our company names. But one time we stickered the car with Wegenwacht for the TCR SPA. And they called us! ‘What are you doing with our signs?’ Fortunately they liked what we were doing, so it was ‘approved.’”
Sadly, NKPP Racing’s TCR SPA 500 would last just 27 laps when the #175 CUPRA hit the barriers heavily at Raidillon (the ‘Wacht niet op u’ / ‘Don’t wait for you’ message on the rear bumper seemed ironically fitting). Though disappointed with the result, both Bessem and Hilders still look back on the 2019 TCR SPA 500 fondly.
“Because, why not?” – Bessem – “That’s what Harry and I like. I remember, the first year ‘Drive to Survive’ came out on Netflix. Covid came shortly after that. So when we got back to racing, we turned that around and put a message on the back [of the CUPRA]: ‘Survive to Drive’ – written on the rear.
“We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. We’re just two old farts having a bit of fun!”
Having competed with Bas Koeten Racing at the season-opening Hankook 24H DUBAI, the NKPP Racing Porsche 992 GT3 Cup has been supported by HRT Performance for CREVENTIC’s European rounds at Mugello, Spa-Francorchamps and Hockenheim. Gijs Bessem and Harry Hilders are set to return to action for the Hankook 24H BARCELONA on 9-10-11 September.