Home Featured Van Hoepen “going in right direction” with de Vries’ trackside support

Van Hoepen “going in right direction” with de Vries’ trackside support

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: FRECA

Returning to ART Grand Prix after a successful two rounds in Formula Regional Oceania in February, Laurens van Hoepen was expecting more from his second FRegional European Championship season.

In his six-race FRegional Oceania spell, he claimed five podiums, two poles and won the New Zealand Grand Prix. But after 12 races in FREC this year he has a best result of fifth and only four points finishes.

“We are making progress, which is good,” he explained to Formula Scout. “Still a step to make, but we are going in the right direction. We are struggling to get the maximum out of the new tyres, so qualifying is our main weakness.”

“Imola was very tough. Barcelona was a bit better, Budapest was even better but then Spa-Francorchamps and Mugello were quite bad for me.”

Although he had shown pace this year, van Hoepen only once qualified in the top 10 before Paul Ricard. With two top-five results in his qualifying group in France, he and the team had reason to be optimistic they had turned a corner.

“We are trying quite a lot of things and some stuff works and some doesn’t. It’s not fully clear yet but I think we’ve now found a way which is going in the right direction,” van Hoepen believes.

ART GP has struggled to match its past results, having taken Gregoire Saucy to the 2021 title and Gabriele Mini to second in the 2022 standings, and even drafted in Hadrien David at Spa to provide some experienced input.

Aside from that weekend, third-year FRegional racer van Hoepen has been thrust into the position of ‘team leader’ alongside two rookie team-mates.

“With the two rookies, it is interesting to see what they say about the car and what they do,” said van Hoepen, although he does concede that “it would maybe be nice to have an experienced team-mate to see what he does”.

He did at least benefit from the support of recently axed Formula 1 driver Nyck de Vries over the Paul Ricard weekend, as he provided valuable advice and encouragement while keeping himself firmly in the background.

“It is very nice to have Nyck here. He’s so experienced, so you can really learn a lot from his input. He doesn’t say anything [on the radio] but he can hear what we say, and he can comment on how we work.”

While de Vries doesn’t get involved in debriefs, for example, he can provide “a different perspective, and some interesting points of views for me to take into the meetings with engineers, but also to look at the run plan and things like that”.

Van Hoepen hopes that “we can definitely find something in the summer break and have a good last four rounds,” one of which will be on home territory at Zandvoort, a race he is particularly looking forward to.

“It’s a nice track and it’s good to stay at home and not a hotel, which is weird.”