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Dutch Prince Buys Zandvoort Circuit

Zandvoort's new owners, Menno de Jong (left) and Bernhard van Oranje (right) with outgoing owner Hans Ernst (centre). Zandvoort's new owners, Menno de Jong (left) and Bernhard van Oranje (right) with outgoing owner Hans Ernst (centre).Picture: Chris Schotanus, Essay Produkties
 Neil Tipton
 Monday, February 15, 2016

For the first time in 27 years, the Zandvoort circuit has passed into new ownership, with a company formed by a Dutch prince and a property entrepreneur taking control. The former Dutch Grand Prix venue has been sold to the evocatively titled Chapman Andretti Partners firm, founded by founded by Menno de Jong and Bernhard van Oranje.

Van Oranje - the second son of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands - has long been a motorsport enthusiast, something he inherited from his grandfather, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. In recent years he has competed in the FIA European GT4 Series in the famous colours of the Racing for Holland outfit.

The circuit's current managing director and major shareholder, Hans Ernst, confirmed the sale on the circuit's website. Ernst bought the ailing facility in 1989 and helped transform it from a failed Grand Prix venue into a booming national circuit and home to the famous Masters of F3 race. Under his stewardship, the circuit was extended back to something like its former glory in 1999, when the northern portion of the track was restored, including the fast Rob Slotemakerbocht and Scheivlak section.

Ernst is adamant that sale leaves Zandvoort in good hands, with de Jong and van Oranje set to continue developing the facility for motorsport: "For me, the circuit has always come first and it is with some heartache that I now step down," he said. "However, I have full confidence in this new generation that has the right feeling to take on this adventure."

Aerial photo of Circuit Park Zandvoort

Bernhard van Oranje said: "Hans Ernst has made an enormous contribution to motorsport in The Netherlands and it is our intention to build on this. Just like Hans Ernst, we have a passion for motorsport and we can see the increasing popularity of the sport in The Netherlands. This offers plenty of opportunities for the future."

Menno de Jong added: "Hans Ernst became the owner of the circuit 27 years ago and guided it through challenging times. Now, there is a beautiful circuit and a profitable company with plenty of potential. From now on, it is to us to make further use of this."

The name of the new operating company - which now owns the circuit and all its buildings and facilities - is a subtle nod to the track's history; Mario Andretti won the Dutch GP in 1978 in Colin Chapman's revolutionary Lotus 79.

The takeover has no direct consequences for the many scheduled activities and events already taking place at Zandvoort, though the new owners will be looking for ways to expand the activities in future.

As for Hans Ernst, he will continue to be remembered at the circuit, despite the changing of the guard - the chicane at Turn 11 was named in his honour several years ago.

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