Rac­ing Team VDS

Australian Muscle Car - - Can-An MkII -

Count

Rodolphe van der Straten Pon­thoz, bet­ter known sim­ply as ‘The Count’, was an heir to the Bel­gian brew­ing fam­ily that makes Stella Ar­tois. He started the VDS team in 1964 rac­ing Mini Coop­ers and soon grad­u­ated to Alfa Romeo GTAs in 1966. VDS stayed with the Ital­ian brand up un­til 1970, rac­ing TZs and 33s in the World Sports Car Cham­pi­onship with lim­ited suc­cess. Fel­low Bel­gian racer Teddy Pilette was re­cruited dur­ing this time and would stay for 10 years.

In 1970 VDS switched to Lola T70s in sports car races and would soon move into F5000 with McLaren, Chevron and Lola ma­chines. Pilette won the Euro­pean F5000 ti­tle twice and team­mate Peter Gethin won the Tas­man cham­pi­onship in 1974.

That pres­ence in Aus­tralia ex­tended to War­wick Brown win­ning the 1977 Aus­tralian Grand Prix in VDS’s dis­tinc­tive red with blue and white stripes Chevron B37. This was fol­lowed by back-to-back Roth­mans Se­ries ti­tles, 1978 and 1979.

VDS left the Can-Am se­ries af­ter 1982 and moved to the CART Indycar Se­ries. By this time ex-Cha­parral en­gi­neer Franz Weis had bought into the team re­lo­cat­ing it to Mid­land Texas. Iron­i­cally, it was for­mer VDS dis­card Ge­off Brab­ham who would star at the 1983 Indy 500.

“Their driver John Paul Jnr had crashed and broke his an­kle,” re­calls Brab­ham. “They put me in the car in the sec­ond week and it was the best car (Penske PC10) I had at Indy. The pre­vi­ous year’s Penske was bet­ter than the cur­rent one. I should have fin­ished sec­ond but un­for­tu­nately I stalled at the last pit­stop. We had a great race. It was great to drive for VDS again though it was a very dif­fer­ent team.”

The team went into hi­ber­na­tion af­ter 1984, con­cen­trat­ing on main­tain­ing race en­gines for Il­mor Engi­neer­ing’s Indycar cus­tomers.

1991 saw VDS join forces with Jim Hall to form Hall-VDS Rac­ing, win­ning first time out with John An­dretti at the in­au­gu­ral Surfers Par­adise Indy race. Its last Indy car sea­son was in 1993 with Teo Fabi.

Count Rudy van der Straten died in 1992 but the VDS name lives on to­day – again with an Aus­tralian con­nec­tion. Rudy’s son Marc runs Marc VDS Rac­ing Team in Mo­toGP with Aussie Jack Miller on a cus­tomer Honda and grand­son Raphael in Bel­gian GT rac­ing.

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