Belcar Champion Anthony Kumpen
As we aim to do each year, dailysportscar (in the form of Joost Custers and Jurgen Evers) cornered the Belcar Champion, for an end of season feature / interview. Again it’s a GLPK Viper driver, after Bert Longin in 2002 and Vincent Dupont in 2003. Joost and Jurgen settled down with Anthony in his home town of Hasselt - in a fine Italian restaurant called Roma. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it!

In contrast to many other GT Champions, the 2004 Belcar winner is still a young man. Anthony Kumpen turned 26 in November, but already he has a considerable endurance history behind him. As early as 1998, he won the GTB title in Belcar, followed in 1999 by his first GTA crown. He took this same title in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

In 2002 and 2003 his respective team-mates, Bert Longin and Vincent Dupont, captured the Belcar drivers challenge, because Anthony didn’t enter all the Belcar races - but this year, he was able to participate in the whole series and was a very deserving champion. Among his achievements, Anthony won the Zolder 24 hours for the fourth time in five years, another remarkable performance making him co-record holder, together with Vincent Dupont. Anthony, what makes GLPK apparently unbeatable in Belcar?

“We are certainly not unbeatable. The Corvette showed a strong pace this year and PSI, Hart and BMW Motorsport won races throughout the season, but altogether we had the best package. We still prepare everything ‘from a to z’ before every qualifying or race, even though we do have enormous experience in endurance racing.

”But I think the GLPK strength lies in a very exceptional combination of professionalism and friendship. We try to keep the band together and to ensure a continuous formation of every member of the squad. GLPK dares to invest in developing young people and also gives them responsibility. Jorgen Segers, our team manager, and Frank Steuckers, our main engineer, are two examples of this philosophy. I think you may compare this to soccer: buying 11 excellent players does not guarantee a strong team. A team is something you have to build over the years. If we win a 24 hour race, the credits go 90% to the team and 10% to the drivers.

”I’ve seen many teams and I consider GLPK as one of the best endurance teams in Europe. The team does not only take care of the Belgian Viper, but works all over this endurance planet. For instance, our boys provided technical support for the RfH Dome of Firman / Coronel / Wilson at Le Mans.” So we may expect another strong season for GLPK in the 2005 Belcar championship?

“I think it’s a shame to hear this, but GLPK could possibly not start at all in the Belcar championship.” We’re surprised, so please explain.

“As dailysportscar readers know, I’m involved in the Carsport Corvette C5-R project. We’re hoping to run a 2004 P&M Corvette in the FIA GT championship, but we are waiting to have a final green light from P&M. I not only hope that Mike (Hezemans) and I will race next season in FIA-GT but possibly also at Le Mans, Sebring and Petit Le Mans, possibly joined by Boris Saïd.

”But because three dates of the FIA-GT Championship clash with Belcar, and with Oschersleben being the same weekend as the Zolder 24 hours, I will not be able to defend my championship in Belgium. Bert Longin will do FIA-GT again, so we both have the same problem.

”Our sponsors aren’t happy at all with this situation, so the GLPK Viper will probably stay away from the Belcar grids.

”The actual calendar is a big mistake, Belcar should at all costs avoid FIA-GT or LMES (dates) as many of the top drivers (Bouvy, Vosse, Longin, Kumpen, Hezemans, Goossens…) in our national championship participate in one or another international series. For 2005, this calendar issue could really halve the number of top entries.

”Last year, Belcar clashed with F1 and that’s no problem at all. Why they changed this is really a mystery to me.” Is Belcar getting too big for Belgium?

“I don’t think so. The liberal but stable rules attract full grids and spectacular cars, with plus or minus ten top cars, and the cost remains more or less equal each season. GLPK did not invest more in 2004 than in 2002 or 2003.

”I think we should continue this way, even if some of the slower cars should really go to BTCS or Touring Cup. I’m proud of the Belcar championship and there’s certainly an international respect for us. Charly Lamm was very surprised by the level of Belcar - after the Schnitzer M3 finished third in the Spa 4 hours race in June. Also my Belcar pole position during the LMES weekend in Nurburgring, was faster than the GTS pole position in the same weekend, which indicates the competitive level of the Belcar.

”But as I said earlier on, the organization should be aware of the race schedule in order to insure the future success of the series.” Is Anthony Kumpen capable of being as successful on an international level as in Belcar?

“I think so. If Carsport and GLPK enter the Corvette in FIA-GT in 2005, racing at the top of the rankings will be the only aim. In the past, I was successful in FIA-GT with one victory, plus several podia and pole positions. In 2002, when Mike and I drove the Carsport Viper, we led half of the races before retiring with mechanical problems, and in the Spa 24 hours, we were eliminated by a stupid incident while we were well ahead.

”If I race, I only do this because I like to perform well and want to win races. This concerns both racing in Belgium and on an international level.” Do you have any other dreams in racing?

“Of course, if there is one race every endurance driver wants to win; it’s Le Mans. The race is so big; you race the best cars against top drivers on a superb track in front of 200,000 people. Even though Spa, Daytona and the ‘Ring are also famous races, Le Mans is something extraordinary. Winning this is an ultimate dream. That’s why I started in the Caterpillar (Taurus Lola) this year. The Olympic credo, “Participating is more important than winning,” is relevant to me at Le Mans… GTs or prototypes are my cup of tea, only DTM or NASCAR could possibly offer other challenges. But the latter is so hard for a non-American driver.” Most 26-year old drivers have only one aim: F1.

”Not me. Getting into F1 is impossible for a Belgian driver and I make my living out of racing in GT or prototypes, so that’s obvious. A budget in a top F3000 seat is more expensive than any seat in FIA-GT, where you race in the strong Super Weekends, you have better accommodation and you can easily invite all of your sponsors. I do not understand why so many young drivers only believe in single seaters. There’s also a strong devaluation of the single seater racing; as there are too many series and championships, and so small grids - while racing in it gets more expensive every year. What are the highs and lows of Anthony Kumpen’s career?

”The highlights of my career are my four victories in the Zolder 24 hours, my victory in FIA-GT in Donington and my pole in the Force One Viper in 2003 - as it was probably the last pole of a Viper in FIA-GT.”The biggest disappointment was my accident in Spa in 2002, I really thought about quitting racing the day after…

“The people I like working with the most are without doubt Bart Mampaey and Toine Hezemans.

”GLPK learned a lot from working with Bart Mampaey, the team manager of RBM (RBM won the ETCC title with Andy Priaulx). He is one of the people in motorsport whom I respect enormously - because of his professional attitude, his calmness and his organisation skills.

”Toine on the other hand is so strong in developing a racing car; working with this man is really incredible. His son Mike is the best team-mate I ever drove with.”

After the ‘work’ was finished, Anthony asked us to join him for a night out in his hometown of Hasselt. Jurgen put his camera away and we were off… we didn’t need asking twice!
© Joost Custers & Jurgen Evers


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