Under the Lid – Tim Coronel

News | October 20, 2020

Motorsport fans will probably recognize this affable Dutchman as both the twin brother of touring car mainstay Tom, and for his twitter game. That though would be doing a huge disservice to Tim Coronel’s professional racing career.

 

In 1994 for example, Tim sealed the first motorsport championship he competed for – the Citroen AX GTI Cup – and went on to win further national titles in 2003 (the Pearle Alfa 147 GTA Challenge) and 2005 (McGregor Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge). He even joined Tom for a couple of outings in the World Touring Car Championship in 2009 and 2010.

 

On top of that, Tim has also represented the ‘Coronel’ name on the grueling Dakar Rally at every edition held since 2007, and even finished as the highest placed ‘solo’ runner on three separate occasions. Hardly surprising that he’s looking to get as much endurance racing under his belt as possible before finally hanging up the ‘cheese helmet’…

Name?

“My name is Tim Coronel, motorsport fanatic!”

Age? You can lie about that if you want…

“48.”

Where and when was your first ever car race, and how old were you?

“It was 1994, I was 22, and it was the Citroën AX GTI Cup in The Netherlands. First race, Zandvoort. I remember at the start my leg was drilling up and down. I was really, really nervous, but I came 2nd so I was very happy. Tommy” – that would be twin brother, and World Touring Car Championship mainstay, Tom Coronel – “kicked my ass afterwards – ‘why didn’t you pass him?’ – but I was happy with 2nd place in my first race. After that, I finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th, and we won the championship, so that was good!

 

“Of course, our family has been in motorsport for many years. I was the only one who didn’t do motor sports when I was young because I was studying. Then, one day, Tom came home and told me that he had arranged a sponsor to do the Citroën AX [GTI] Cup, so we did it together. From then on, I was lost to it. Motorsport is a way of life and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

What is the best moment of your racing career so far?

“My best moment was Dakar 2010, when I was the first man who did [the Dakar Rally] solo and made the finish.* And this was a buggy we built ourselves together with Alistair McRae, brother of Colin.

 

“It was really hard. Really hard. I think in 14 days I slept for 26 hours, so it was a great moment to reach the finish. The Dakar, I’ve done every year for 14 years, and I’ve been competing back on tarmac for the last two years as well. I’m having fun. I love competition!”

 

* Were this not impressive enough, Tim finished 50th overall in the Car division in the McRae 4X2 Buggy and was also the first ‘solo’ driver to cross the finish line, an accolade the Dutchman repeated one year later when he brought the buggy home in 36th place. Tim has since won the ‘solo’ category a third time, having secured a personal best finish of 35th overall in 2016.

Which is your favourite circuit and why?

“Spa-Francorchamps, because it’s exciting. It’s fast, it’s slow, you go up, you go down… I just love Francorchamps!”

Describe the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a motor race …

“Nobody knows this, but I won the Dutch championship in the [Pearle] Alfa 147 GTA Challenge in 2003, and we were celebrating at Zandvoort: I was on the roof [of the car], I jumped off, and I broke my foot!

 

“A week after that, we had a race at Monza, because we were also doing the European championship. So I ended up driving that race with a broken foot. That was strange because normally I’m always around people, having fun. But that weekend, I was either in the trailer or in the car because nobody was allowed to see that I’d broken my foot. That weekend at Monza, I ended up winning the European championship as well!”

Describe your helmet design to us, and what it signifies…

“My current helmet design is a ‘cheese helmet’, because our sponsor – ERU Prestige – is a new cream cheese. As drivers, we like our own helmet designs, but as part of our deal with ERU, we would use their new design. I had to think about this for two days and eventually we decided to do it – Tom and I, and a few other drivers – which was really the right decision. Everybody recognises this helmet. It’s good marketing and it’s also become our signature now!”

What is your greatest strength?

“Being a good sport. It’s a lot of fun battling with other drivers on-track, and I think that’s important. People know, ‘okay, that’s this crazy guy, but I know I can fight between the lines, in a good way.’ It’s nice to have that reputation, as a…[pause]… as a…”

A motorsport fanatic?

“Yes, of course, a fanatic, but not with a big ego. When you have an ego, you make mistakes, or you can cause other drivers not to trust you. I always like to have two smiles at the finish, win or lose.”

If Hollywood made a movie about you, who would play you and why?

“Tom Cruise! I like cocktails and I like racing, so that’s easy!”

What would you like to achieve before retiring?

“Another good question! I would love to do a lot more endurance racing together with the family. I’m the father of two princesses, and my lady, Gaby [Uljee], is also racing. I still want to do the Dakar with my lady, and Tom with his lady, so that’s probably the next goal. To enjoy motorsport together.

 

“And of course, more of the 24H SERIES. [At Hockenheim] I drove together with Gaby, and I drove with Tommy in Monza. Maybe we can all drive one time altogether.”

Tell us a random fact about yourself that your fans might not know…

“I always like to sleep before I get into the car. I love to sleep! Normally I do it under the car [on the Dakar] and my engineer wakes me up: ‘Tim, Tim, Tim, you have to go!’ So it’s always last moment in, first moment out.”

Finally, what do you enjoy most about competing in the 24H SERIES?

“The nice thing about the 24H SERIES is that it’s a nice environment, with nice people, and nice cars. Endurance is always more of an experience, or maybe more of an adventure, than sprint racing. I enjoy endurance racing a lot, and at my age, they say I’m still quick but still seen as a ‘gentleman’. So money-wise, a lot of teams are interested in my speed because of that!

 

“They are no stupid egos in the 24H SERIES. None of that. But there is plenty of fair competition on-track. That’s what I like. It’s really fun.”

Tim Coronel was speaking with Quinten Kentie and James Gent at the 2020 Hankook 16H HOCKENHEIMRING. Images courtesy of Boost Media.

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