DakarEuropean Rallycross

Jan de Rooy, 1943–2024

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Credit: de Rooy

Jan de Rooy, patriarch of Dakar Rally truck powerhouse Team de Rooy and 1987 champion in said category, passed away Tuesday at the age of 80 after a short illness.

De Rooy was a rallycross star who began his career in 1969, four years after taking over De Rooy Transport from his father Graad. The company, which recently celebrated its centennial in 2023, specialises in heavy transport done through trucks built in-house. Dutch truck manufacturer DAF Trucks has long been one of their most prominent clients, and their partnership placed de Rooy behind the wheel of a DAF 55. This combination proved successful as he won the Dutch Rallycross Championship five times from 1970 to 1973 and 1979, including sweeping the 1971 calendar. He also raced in the FIA European Rallycross Championship, finishing runner-up in the Touring Car division in a Ford Escort in 1979 then third in the 1982 Division 2 standings.

In 1982, he made his Paris–Dakar Rally début behind the wheel of a DAF NTT 2800 (nicknamed “The Nose”), which finished sixty-seventh overall and third among trucks. De Rooy switched to a 3300 (“The Suitcase”) for the 1983 race, placing thirty-fourth overall and third in class, before he and DAF began creating purpose-built trucks for rally raids. His 1984 challenger, also a DAF 3300, sported a double cab and engine design—earning it the nickname of “Two-Headed Monster”—but retired with a broken left rear wheel and no spare parts to rectify the problem. He concluded was too heavy and slimmed down the 3300 for 1985; while he came up short of winning the class overall due to a late time penalty, “The Bull” has become one of the most iconic rally trucks of the era.

De Rooy stepped up his game even further in 1986 with the DAF Turbo Twin II, which was based on the DAF FAV3600 and featured two engines that combined for roughly 950 horsepower. Now adorned in the Dutch tricolour, a break from the predominantly yellow livery, the truck was competitive even against cars until a broken front axle forced him to drop out.

For the 1987 race, the team retained the Turbo Twin design but made upgrades like increasing horsepower and streamlining the body. These changes paid off as De Rooy finally broke through to win the truck category by over eleven hours and finish eleventh outright.

Despite his successes, his Dakar run ended in 1988 when his team-mate Theo van de Rijt flipped his DAF 95 in the dunes, resulting in the death of co-driver Kees van Loewezijn. De Rooy, who had been running fifth at the time of the accident, and the team withdrew from the race. DAF also dropped their factory support and sold their equipment to Team de Rooy afterwards, though he did not return to the Dakar again until 2002 with his son Gerard de Rooy when they finished sixth in class.

The father/son duo continued to run the Dakar annually until its cancellation in 2008; the elder de Rooy’s last Dakar in 2007 was cut short by a retirement after five stages. His final rally was the inaugural Africa Eco Race in 2009, which follows the Dakar Rally’s original Europe to Dakar route, where he won in an IVECO Trakker.

De Rooy passed on the team and company to Gerard in 2010. Twenty-five years after Jan’s victory, Gerard claimed the Dakar himself in 2012 in an IVECO then repeated in 2016. Janus van Kasteren won the 2023 edition as well as that year’s World Rally-Raid Championship for Team de Rooy; his father Janus van Kasteren Sr. recently raced the Dakar Classic in a restored DAF Bull.

Jan de Rooy: 19 February 1943 – 30 January 2024

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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