It’s a fine thing to find something that you are good at; finer still, if you were born into that “right” situation. Such is the case with today’s subject, touring and sports car ace Toine Hezemans.
Born in Eindoven, Holland in 1943, Antoine Hezemans was born into a motor sport family. His father, Matthieu, was a talented amateur driver who raced in many Dutch national and international sports car races, and owned a successful Porsche dealership. As soon as young Antoine could manage a cart, he got one (the Hezeman family is the official distributor of Rotax racing carts in Holland). All those years of watching his father build and race Porsche and Volkswagen based specials, later graduating to racing Porsche 550 RS’s at the Nurburgring, Hockenheim and LeMans, gave young Toine insight into race car engineering and vehicle dynamics that would serve him well as an adult.
Starting with privately entered Abarths and Porsches (thanks dad!) in 1967, Hezemans started in winning in just his second professional race at Hockenheim, and just kept winning for the next 3 seasons (8 wins with 6 additional podium finishes in his first 35 professional races)! All this success did not go unnoticed and, in 1970, Carlo Chiti and Autodelta came calling with their new Alfa Romeo 2000 GTAm and an invitation to race in the ETCC. Hezemans won 4 races with 2 additional podium finishes, beating back a stiff challenge from Johann Abt and his Abarth 1000TCR, to take the 1970 ETCC drivers title.
More success followed in 1971, as Hezemans split time evenly between the ETCC, where he would finish 3rd in the drivers championship, and endurance racing where he was frequently paired with Nino Vaccarella. At the 1971 Targa Florio, Hezemans and Vaccarella in their T33/3 out dueled and out lasted the triple Porsche threat from Brian Redman, Jo Siffert, Pedro Rodriguez, Herbert Muller, Vic Elford and Gerard Larrousse in their respective Porches 908-3’s to win the race in 6h 35’43 ” averaging a speed of 120.055 km/h.
After Autodelta pulled out of touring car racing at the end of the ’72 season, Hezemans signed with BMW’s factory team in 1973. While the car was different, Hezemans didn’t change; with 3 victories and 3 second place finishes in 9 races, Toine breezed to his second ETCC title.
Over the course of his 12 year professional racing career, Toine Hezeman’s competed in 202 races, with 43 overall victories, 28 additional class wins, and 52 podium finishes. After his retirement, Toine turned to running his own team, Carsport Holland (later to be Hezemans Racing) in the FIA GT series, where his son Mike campaigns a Chevrolet Corvette C-6R. Happy birthday, Toine.