Jos Verstappen: Paul Lemmens & the good old days

Columns: Stories
Jos Verstappen considered the most successful Dutch F1 racing driver before retiring to mentor his son Max for Formula One, he was a Le Mans LMP2 & Le Mans Series winner, race winner in A1 GP, German Formula 3 & Marlboro Masters champion, won two European karting titles & Dutch Junior champion. Here's what he told us about the good times with Paul Lemmens (J.W.)

«I still remember the first day they were building the original track in Genk, I was about 9 or 10 years of age, there was only the track and a lot of orange sand alongside it. Paul was in the basement there working. I’ve known him a long time… it’s nearly forty years ago.
I raced for Paul when I was 13 or 14 years old, he was a very well-known engine tuner and he had a good team. He had lots of engines, also the ones he rented out to customers, and the funny thing is that I had to run them in before we went to all the races, but the good thing about that was I selected my own engines, which was good for me!
When I was 17, I worked for him in the basement rebuilding the engines, on the dyno and helping the people on the track, so I spent a lot of time with Paul.
There were lots of good drivers there at the time – Guy De Nies, Jan Heylen, Sophie Kumpen,… and we always had loads of fun.
We also had to look after the rental karts and I remember once we took them out in the evening when it was raining and were pushing each other off the track, just having fun, then Paul found out we were doing that and he came there screaming and angry with us. He can scream very loud, was always smashing the hammer on the work table. Although, I have to say Paul and I had an understanding and always had respect for each other, so never had a problem. I’ve got goosebumps now [just talking about this], but we really had a lot of fun there.
I worked with Fred the mechanic who is still there today with GKS, he only spoke French, but we had the connection. He still keeps in contact now, like Paul. After some time, I had my own team so we were fighting with each other, with Max, against their drivers, yet always had that respect in the end.
Paul’s character is that he’s very emotional and motivated, and I think he may have seen himself in me as well a lot. We are very much the same: I work hard and I was always very motivated to win. I think I learned a lot from Paul – how to build engines and how to tune engines. I had a lot of ideas and would speak to Paul about them, and we’d spend hours on the dyno until three or four o’clock through the night.
I had a very good relationship with him and I think he was the basis for me that I really like to build the engines, and it helped me a lot too with Max.
We spent so many hours there with them in the evenings in the bar when Max was very young. There are so many things I remember, working late, running the engines in; it was work, but it was always a pleasure to work there, learning and having a lot of fun.»

Created by: cggiuliano - 25/05/21

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