Former motorcycle racer Jean de Vries died at the age of 77 in his hometown Burmirind on Thursday January 14th. The two-time world champion died from the consequences of acute cardiac arrest.
De Vries won the world title in the 50 cc category over Van Veen Kreidler in 1971 and 1973, won 14 Grand Prix races, was on the podium 27 times after the Grand Prix, 1 time the Hans de Beaufort Cup (the highest prize in motorsport Dutch). The Friesian born is also the first Dutch to win a world road racing title and is still by far the best Dutch ever in the single road racing category.
Jean de Vries (1944-01-05 and 2021-01-14)
Jean de Vries was born on the 5th of January in Sant Jacopparoche, the Frisian village in which he grew up as a young boy. After elementary school, De Vries continued his education in LTS where he obtained his degree in Automotive Technology. With this diploma in his pocket, he started working as a mechanic at Jager Motoren in Leeuwarden.
In addition to his work at Jager Motoren, the first steps were also taken in sports, with De Vries participating in grass track races. But everything changed when Van Veen, director of the Amsterdam-based Dutch importer of Kreidler bikes, made a call in 1965 in which young drivers were sought to develop and manage the custom-designed Van Veen Kreidler in the road race of the Dutch championship.
After a strict selection and test drive at the circuit Zandvoort, De Vries and Aalt Toersen were one of the lucky ones. Initially, Toersen became the # 1 driver and earned the fastest materials. Toersen (1966) soon became a Dutch champion in the 50cc class, but a year later, De Vries earned that honor and then in 1968, he again had to leave that honor to his teammate.
After both men appeared later in the World Cup, Toersen was the first World Cup two points to score in the 1967 season on his Van Veen Kreidler. As Toersen moves into the Jamathi brand for the 1969 season, there was suddenly De Vries who, apparently out of nowhere, managed to finish the podium multiple times in the World Cup race.
After finishing fourth in 1969 and fifth in the final ranking of the 50cc World Championships in 1970, de Vries became the first Dutchman to win a world title in road racing.
It was not superfluous to say that de Vries became the world champion that year, as he had to compete only with the multi-world champion Angel Nieto. The sober and Spanish Frisi often fought a lot of exciting duels. Not only was it quick and talented Kreidler that gave De Vries the needed victories, the adorable frog also outdid his Spanish rival several times by forcing him to make a mistake and letting him fall into his trap.
In 1972, Friese had a “slightly” poorer season and with “only” three wins, he was second in the final standings for the tournament, yes I guessed it … behind his Spanish rival, Angel Neto. As a little condolence, de Vries became a Dutch champion again that season.
In 1973, he struck again and the Dutch became world champion for the second time in his career, with five victories. Remarkably, in addition to his five wins, De Vries had yet to finish the race on the podium in any other race that season.
At the end of the 1973 season, De Vries surprised many road racing fans with the news that he would immediately end his active motorsports career. With fourteen Grand Prix victories and two world titles in his pocket (unfortunately without a win in his Dutch TT race – he finished runners-up three times), De Vries says he’s completely done with it and stopped at peak as an active driver.
The fast-paced Van Vin Kredler was run by Henk van Kessel from the 1974 season, while de Vries continues to work for the employer as a tuner and mechanic. In this position, de Vries helped Van Kessel, who instantly became world champion in his first year. A year later, De Vries becomes the mechanic of his former rival Nieto, the Spaniard who managed to win his 50cc world title this season, on a machine prepared by that sober Dutchman who had made his life miserable in several races in previous years. .
De Vries then went on to work for Van Veen and worked there for a number of years with big names like Van Kessel and Nieto, but also Hans Spaan, until the company was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1985.
De Vries takes his original Van Veen Kreidler from his living room in 1998 to initially appear during the Centenniel Classic TT in the well-known TT Circuit Assen. It would be a meeting with many of its old competitors. Next, we’ll see de Vries running several times during popular test races in the Netherlands as well as abroad, including drivers’ classics at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
The last time we were allowed to meet De Vries in person and see his lovely orange and green Kreidler team in action was at the end of June 2020 at TT Circuit Assen. Together with Will Hartog, the two-time world champion and most successful (singles) driver in the Netherlands, he led a number of laps on the Drenthey circuit, just as MotoGP drivers usually start there on a Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. The 2020 Dutch TT could not be released due to the coronavirus outbreak.
On Thursday, January 14, the fourteen-time Grand Prix winner, two-time world champion and Cup Winner Hans de Beaufort (1971) died suddenly and unexpectedly in his home town of Burmirend from the consequences of acute cardiac arrest.
De Vries passed away exactly two years after his beloved wife Rumi – the smiling and friendly lady he had married since 1967, who had three children together and who had always been by his side during his racing career and beyond – on January 14, 2019 he passed away.
With the death of de Vries, the Dutch motorsport not only lost a two-time world champion and a much appreciated athlete, but above all it lost a kind, friendly and awesome personality.
Rest in peace January, it is really a pleasure to know you, to hear your own stories and to have the opportunity to discuss our shared passion with you many times. Thank you all for what you have done to our wonderful sport, you and you will remain an example for many !!
Anneke, Dirk-Jan and Grietje, also on behalf of the entire editorial team Racesport.nl, have so much strength in these difficult days and my condolences for the loss of your father.
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