He started racing almost by chance, but Dilano van’t Hoff is now on his way to becoming a motorsport star having just secured the Spanish F4 title. Alejandro Alonso Lopez goes through the career of the Dutch talent
The Spanish Formula 4 championship seems to be a comfortable place for Dutch drivers to fulfil their potential. After Richard Verschoor, Bent Viscaal and Kas Haverkort, now it is Dilano van’t Hoff who shines in the south of Europe.
Van’t Hoff’s first contact with motorsport was a bit different from what we normally hear from racing drivers. He neither attended a birthday party at a go-kart place nor was given a go-kart for Christmas. In fact, it could be said that he was in the right place at the right time to replace another driver who wasn’t ready to race.
“I was watching a karting race of my step-brother, and one of the guys that was there was [the son] of like a friend of my dad’s and he was crying at the race start,” van’t Hoff told Formula Scout ahead of last weekend’s Spanish F4 round at Jerez.
“He didn’t want to start and he got out of the kart. Then I looked to my dad saying ‘oh, please, let me have a go’. I got into the kart and I drove the race.
“Since then I just really started to like it and I’ve just been doing it ever since.”
This by-chance first race would be followed by many, many more in karting during a six-year spell which began in 2015.
“My karting career was pretty good, I think. I spent most of it with Forza Racing. They taught me a lot. We had some struggles in the first days, but the pace was really good.”
After enduring some difficulties in his first three years, van’t Hoff came in third in the 2018 IAME Euro Series as well as in the IAME International Final, where he competed in the X30 Junior category.
Those results took him to the major CIK-FIA and WSK-sanctioned championships in the following two years, with 2020 being his busiest season.
“It was in the last year, especially, when I really started to get into a good amount of racing and we started to pick up the experience. I definitely have good memories from those times.”
Remarkably he actually won very little in karting, triumphing in the British round of CIK-FIA European Championship in OK-Junior in 2018, then claiming the iconic Trofeo delle Industrie at Italy’s South Garda circuit a year later in the OK category.
The lack of a title is a substantial omission, and van’t Hoff knew it. However, he decided that for the good of his career it was best to let go of that while moving up to Formula 4, as he was already 16.
“I think one more year would have given me the results, but I was getting a bit too heavy. I think if I had waited another year, I would have been lacking a lot of experience in the F4, so at the end it is good that we went one year earlier.”
Looking at his F4 results would make that decison seem like the obvious right one, and that his transition from karts to cars was pretty straightforward. However, it was not all that neat and some small difficulties arose at the very beginning.
“I wasn’t very fast in the first few tests,” he revealed. “Getting used to the car and getting used to the weight were the most complicated things.
“Of course, you drive in a very different way [compared with karting]. Catching the car and feeling comfortable, I didn’t have a lot of confidence, especially in the fast corners I was lacking a lot.
“But eventually when we went to the UAE [F4 championship], I started to pick it up and I started to get used to the car, and from that point it just started going really good.”
Indeed, he achieved pole position for his first F4 race and claimed two victories in his first car racing weekend.
Van’t Hoff would take five wins and seven further podiums from the condense five-week season. He also proved to be the fastest, with 13 poles out of a possible 15. Despite that, Van’t Hoff missed out on the title to Enzo Trulli by just one point.
After that, it was time to think about which championship to compete in for the rest of 2021.
“We were thinking about either go to Italian F4 or Spanish F4, but because MP is a Dutch team and I already had some connections in the team, and they do the Spanish championship, that’s why we chose that one.”
Again the choice has been the right one, as he’s champion with a round to spare and has nine wins and 13 poles. Those results exceeded the expectations of van’t Hoff, who was keeping his feet on the ground before the season began.
“I expected to be top five, top 10. In F4 UAE things went already really well, so after that top five would have been good, but this is even better.”
Van’t Hoff doesn’t hesitate when it comes to explaining his success, but at the time he spoke to Formula Scout he knew that the job was not completely done.
“Preparation is the key. F4 UAE made me really get used to the car and that has given me an advantage over everyone else.”
After saying “I want a championship to my name of course”, something he has now achieved, he added that he’ll now “go to the next thing”.
That next thing might well be Formula Regional European Championship, an option definitely being considered for 2022 as van’t Hoff debuted in the series’ recent Valencia round as a wildcard driver for MP.
That experience meant a bigger challenge the 17-year-old, but it was nothing he could not cope with.
“I thought it was going to be easier to be fair,” he admitted. “Even physically, it’s a lot harder. And, of course, being in a different car, having to get used to it. That’s pretty hard.
“I mean there are still a lot of things I have to learn about this car. It’s really different, but considering how much mileage I’ve done in this car I think we are doing a really good job.”
He qualified 19th and finished 20th on his debut, and crashed with another driver in race two, but the experience was still vital. It didn’t knock his confidence either, as a week later he was back in F4 at Jerez and sealed the title with his first weekend lockout: victory from pole in all three races.
It was the fifth title from six attempts for MP in the series, and van’t Hoff plans to add to the team’s tally in other series.
“The relationship is very good. We can work well together and I’ve learnt a lot from them and I just hope I can stay with them throughout my career.”
D/O/B July 26, 2004
Country The Netherlands
2021: NC in FREC (2 races), Spanish F4 champion (9 wins, 13 poles, 6 fastest laps), 2nd in F4 UAE (5 wins, 13 poles, 10 fastest laps)
2020: 10th in WSK Super Master Series – OK, 10th in WSK Euro Series – OK, 12th in South Garda Winter Cup – OK, 15th in CIK-FIA World Championship, 16th in CIK-FIA European Championship – OK
2019: Trofeo delle Industrie winner – OK, 4th in WSK Open Cup – OK, 5th in CIK-FIA European Championship – OK, 5th in WSK Euro Series – OK, 5th in WSK Champions Cup – OK, 6th in Italian Championship – OK, 10th in WSK SMS – OK, 16th in South Garda Winter Cup – OK, 32nd in CIK-FIA World Championship – OK
2018: 3rd in IAME Int. Final – X30 Junior, 3rd in IAME Euro Series – X30 J, 6th in CIK-FIA European Championship – OK Junior, 13th in WSK Final Cup – OK, 13th in WSK Final Cup – OKJ, 18th in CIK-FIA World Championship – OKJ
2017: 7th in IAME Euro Series – X30 J, 15th in IAME Int. Final – X30 J, 27th in WSK Champions Cup – OKJ
2016: 32nd in USA SuperNationals – Mini Swift, 72nd in WSK Champions Cup – Mini
2015: 54th in USA SuperNationals – TaG Cadet