Sandra van der Sloot: “I wouldn’t miss it for the world”
Sandra van der Sloot is one of the greatest drivers in Dutch motorsport history. She’s a five-time Dutch champion, winning several different championships. On top of that, no Dutch woman has stood on the podium as often as her, which makes her the most successful female driver from the Netherlands to-date.
Sandra came into contact with motorsport through her father who started rallying when she was 10 years old. Attending her first race when she was 12, she instantly fell in love with racing, despite only being allowed to clean the car at that age. “They put me in a kart when I was 12 just for fun,” she tells Females in Motorsport. “At one point, I was standing still on the track without any fuel because I’d driven so many laps around the track. I absolutely loved it so I decided to take lessons at Zandvoort when I was 14.”
One thing led to another and when she was 16 she decided it was time to get a racing licence. Sandra grew up in a time where women in motorsport were still rare - being a young girl with an ambition to become a racing driver in an industry that was not used to that at all was challenging.
“I had to get my license under a male name,” she says. “I had great grades and because of that they couldn’t say no to me, but it was definitely a political game at the time.
“This took place 30 years ago and it was just different back then. Today it doesn’t matter anymore who you are because everyone is allowed to race, but back then it was irresponsible to have a girl in a race car.”
From that point onwards, Sandra has used her racing license to compete in some iconic races in the Netherlands as well as internationally. A special moment in her career was competing in the 24 Hours of Dubai with the Racing Divas. “I always had the idea of wanting to drive a 24-hour race with an all-female team from the Netherlands,” she says. “I initially discussed the idea with Gaby Uljee and she loved it. That first year we realized our ideas within two months. In the end we competed in Dubai for four years.”
The Racing Divas consisted of Sandra van der Sloot, Gaby Uljee, Paulien Zwart, Natasja Smit and Shirley van der Lof who ended up winning three out of four races together which was not only impressive, but also out of the ordinary in Dubai.
“It was unacceptable to have women behind the wheel there,” she says. “We talked to the motorsport authorities there about our participation and by competing in the races we earned respect.
“The most memorable one of the three was the race in 2014. I had to drive the last stint of a race that was hell to us because we were dealing with damage and bad luck. 50 minutes before the finish I caught up with the driver in first place and overtook him which meant I was leading the race.
“From that point onwards I was struggling and fighting, because you don’t want to lose your first place right before the finish.”
Leading the race was a new experience to Sandra and initially led to some panic.
“I instantly thought ‘what do I do now? I have nobody in front of me',” she says. “Normally you follow someone and copy what they do, but now I had no example. They told me to fold the rear-view mirror away and put my head down and I just focused on driving and ended up winning.”
The Racing Divas stopped competing because some of the women became mothers and, sadly, they didn’t have enough funding. Sandra never stopped racing though and she’s currently driving in ADAC GT4 Germany for Team Driverse alongside Charlie Martin.
“Charlie is a sister from another mother,” she says. “The first time we met on a test day it was like we had known each other for years. We have grown very close and that’s fantastic. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Having to prove yourself as a driver is a tough part of the job. Driving in ADAC GT4 Germany means Sandra needs to prove herself again to a new group of drivers.
“In the past, I really had to fight and show men who were a lot older than me that I could do it,” she says. “I’ve been able to show that I’m not someone who drives in last place and has the key to lock the gate to the track when it’s over.
“After I won some championships in my first few years of racing, I earned respect from people. Driving in ADAC GT4 Germany means that I now need to prove myself again, because the younger drivers have never heard of me. I need to show that I can do it and that motivates me.”
Even though Sandra has had and still needs to prove her worth, she’s never felt like that has stood in the way.
“I was and still am just doing my thing,” she says. “I just did what I was good at and ignored everyone’s opinions. They have more of a problem with it than I do. As long as I can still compete with the others, I’ll continue to do so. If I continuously finish last, then I think it is time for me to leave.”
Looking back at her extensive career, in which she entered in more than 250 races, Sandra is delighted with everything she was able to achieve throughout it.
“All of the championships are special to me in their own way and every championship has its own story,” she says. “I'll never forget my very first championship, which was the Radio 538 Saxo Cup.
“The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Benelux was also one of my favourites because I didn’t expect to win it. I had to start at the back of the grid so I thought my chances were slim, but there was no pressure because of it. I congratulated the person that I thought would win before the race as some sort of mind f***. Then I drove two fantastic races and I honestly still don’t understand how I did that.”
Sandra’s advice to women and girls that want to work and race in motorsport will always be to just try it out.
“Know what you can do and go do it,” she says. “If it doesn’t work out, you can always stop so why not give it a go?”
Although Sandra has been racing for 32 years, there are still several championships that she’d like to compete in.
“One of them is definitely the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” she says. “I also want to perform well in the ADAC GT4 and I love endurance racing, so I hope that I can do that more often in the future. Secretly I also hope that I can drive in the TCR Europe one day.”
But one thing is certain: Sandra wants to continue racing as long as possible.
“I just hope that I’m still racing in five years time.”
You can follow Sandra van der Sloot on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and check out Team Driverse here.