Belgium… A country well known for its fries, beer, chocolate and… RALLIES! A country that only exists 181 years, and originally belonged to the Netherlands, is now becoming one of the most loved rally areas by both national and international rally teams. When we received information about a rally team from Belgium and found out they were rallying a Porsche 911 and Opel Manta B, we just knew we had to ask them for an interview. Meet L&H Historic Team, a team of enthusiasts, who spend all their free time on their biggest hobby; rally.
Where do you live? What do you do for a living?
I live in Geluveld, part of Zonnebeke county. For a living, I’m project leader of electrical installations at Fabricom NV.
How many people are on your team?
We started as a three person team. We already exist about 5 years now, and we grew to a team with a second co-pilot and our own service team.
With so many people there are (obviously) a lot of different opinions as well. Who has the final word when it comes to very important decisions?
If you’ve got to make a decision with different people, there will obviously be different opinions. The final decision lies with the people who started the team; Patrick, Wouter and I.
How did you come to love rally’s? Is it something you already had as a kid, or did it grew when you became older?
When I was a little kid, I watched beside the famous Ieperisch roads, when it still was the 24 hours of Ieper (now it’s called the Geko Ypres Westhoek Rally). The fast cars with their intense colors and a lot of noise, and of course the smell of burned gasoline and rubber made me dream…
How did you end up in your current rally team?
After break of a few years (I was a pilot in a rally back in 2002), my wife encouraged me to get back into rallies again. That’s how I ended up with Patrick, and we agreed to do one rally rally together. Now, many years and rallyies have passed and we’re still a team. We do an average of 7 rallies a year, and often with both cars at the start.
You rally with two cars, a Porsche 911, and an Opel Manta B. Why did you end up choosing those two cars?
The Porsche was already owned by Patrick and Wouter (childhood dream). Wouter (the son of Patrick), is the one who built the car from scratch. Patrick makes sure the money that is needed is available. Two years back we decided to buy a second car, with the idea of renting it out, but that ended up a bit different.
Did you really buy the car on rally potential, or did you just buy a car and gave it rally-potential yourselves?
The Porsche is a real racecar anyway. With 265 hp you can have a lot of fun with this car, but this Porsche from 1969 is a bit too unique to drive it to its limits all the time. That’s the reason why we mainly rally for fun with the Porsche, instead of going for the results.
When we bought the Opel Manta, the car needed a complete rebuild. We started stripping the car, and when we rebuilt her, we decided to take it for a drive ourselves. It didn’t take us long to realise that this car had real rally potential, and we decided to give up the idea to rent it out. We spent the biggest part of our budget on the Opel and it keeps getting better and better. But we definitely had our setbacks.
What is the biggest setback you’ve encountered as a team?
After the rebuild we decided to throw in a prepped engine, and we found a guy to do this for us. The guy who did it (I don’t even want to say his name) really scammed us. The engine only lasted 400 kilometers before it blew up. We took the engine to an Opel specialist and, when he looked the engine over, he noticed a few very important modifications were missing, but we had paid for them. We ended up having to spend a lot of money again, and that really shrunk our budget.
Is there a particular reason why you chose for classic rally cars instead of modern cars?
It isn’t so much about the cars, but the nostalgic feeling of the oldtimers really speaks to us. An oldtimer is still a “real” car. Besides that, a Historic car is a bit better for the budget as well. The modern 4×4 cars have quite a bit of electronics onboard, which make it possible to enhance the driving experience in favor of the pilot. An oldtimer, on the other hand, takes a lot more effort to be driven because of his RWD, but only needs a bit of gasoline and a spark. But don’t think this means that oldtimers aren’t real rally cars. There are some guys with oldtimers who manage to end up between a lot of the more recent cars in the statistics.
How difficult is it to get the finances in order for a small rally team? Do you manage to get even, or do you have to spend a lot of money from your own pockets? Do you organise (local) events to realise income?
Because of an extended circle of acquaintances, sponsors and fans, we manage to get about 90 percent of the money we need, without having to spend one dime ourselves. Every year we organise a diner, which brings a decent amount of money every year, mainly because of the upcome; about 250/300 people. We will probably be never able to buy ourselves a “real” rally car like a Ford Escort BDA or a Porsche 911 RSR, which is kind of sad; because our pilot Wouter is one of the few really talented youth rally pilots in Belgium.
Who are your sponsors and how did they end up with you?
All our sponsors are people from the area. A lot of them come from our own circle of acquaintances and a few of them are colleagues from our team members. We’ve got sponsors from industry, shops, cafe, a lingery-shop, and even a newspaper shop. Our sponsors can be found here: Sponsors
What is your favorite memory?
There are a lot of beautiful memories, so much that I don’t really have a favourite one. The most beautiful ones; We had to use a standard 140 hp engine in one of the previous rallies, instead of the 180 hp one, and we still managed to become 5th all around. The first rally I piloted with Patrick, the first rally with Wouter, a second place in the TBR rally, 8th place in Ieper; I can only hope a lot like these will follow.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
With friendship and team spirit you can reach almost everything.
You mainly attend rallies in Belgium and only a few foreign ones. What’s the main reason you only attend to rallies in Belgium, and what rally-events do you attend to in other countries?
The main reason to only attend to rallies in Belgium is our budget. Besides that, our sponsors do not benefit from it if we attend rallies in other countries. The rally events we attend to in other countries are mainly just over the border in France.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone looking to start their/his own rally team?
Beware people who promise a lot, but don’t do anything. Make sure you contact experienced rally drivers for information and questions. Look after your sponsors as well, they are the ones who make the things you want available.
Do you have a favourite rally-hero?
Of course my own two pilots are my favourites, but besides that I would like to take a place next to a fellow countryman like Freddy Loix.
What’s your own favourite rally-car(s)? (Oldtimer or recent?)
As oldtimers, there’s not much that can compare to the Opel Manta 400 and the Audi Quattro. If I had to choose a more recent car, it would be the BMW E30 M3, even thought that one is becoming an oldtimer rapidly as well.
What are your plans for the future?
Soon there’s the Omloop of Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), well known by our British colleagues as well, where we rally our yearly home event. Besides that, we hope to keep rallying for a long time to come, and if we could win an event every once in a while, that would be great!
We would like to thank Nico Hoflack from L&H Historic Team for his time and effort to answer these questions for us. If you would like to get to know more about the L&H Historic Team, click here For an onboard video of a previous rally, click here .
Are you from Belgium or a surrounding country? Do you, or someone you know, drive rallies as well? Please let us know and we’ll get you/them some time in the spotlights. Thanks for reading. Gearheads united; keep doing your thing, and keep sharing it with us and the rest of the world!