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Editor: Jaap Horst

Volume 24, Issue 2

Unknown Dutch Bugatti employee and race driver: Cornelis Johannes van Hulzen

Text: Bart Oosterling
Photographer: Martin Ricardo; Publisher: Kutxa Fundazioa (kutxateka.com)

On November 17, 1925 when 20 years old van Hulzen joined the Military to be trained as a Pilot by the “Luchtvaartafdeeling der Koninklijke Landmacht” (LVA; airforce division of the ground forces; a precursor of the Royal Airforce) at military air force base Soesterberg. On October 22, 1927 he is relieved of his duties and transferred back to regular military service and sent on leave.

On January 6, 1928, his mother died, aged 49. Because of a substantial inheritance and/or the sale of the parental villa after the passing away of his parents, van Hulzen was able to fulfil his ambition to go racing. For an unknown period van Hulzen worked at the Bugatti factory, at first in assembly, later in setting up (new) cars for the works- and racing drivers and other (racing) clientele, sometimes driving a bare chassis using a wooden box as a seat. The Toul-Nancy race of 1928 was his first official race as an independent driver, racing with Bugatti rather than for Bugatti. Van Hulzen entered several races with mixed results.

A race of importance was the GP de San Sebastian on October 5, 1930 . The race was over 30 rounds of about 18 km, counter clockwise instead of the regular clockwise rounds. It is almost sure that van Hulzen’s car was painted orange for this race. This is confirmed by the Spanish newspaper reports mentioning this colour several times. The very first occasion ever that a car appeared in a race in the Dutch racing colour of orange! Van Hulzen was unlucky in the draw for the start and had to start in 20th position. After the 1st round van Hulzen was in 9th place. In the 5th round van Hulzen was in 9th place. After 10 rounds (173.15 km) he still held 9th place. At round 15 (259.729 km) van Hulzen had climbed to 6th position. He did a pitstop for 4 new wheels, a radiator top up and 90 L of fuel in 54 seconds and continued the race. But then in round 16 van Hulzen suffered a severe accident. In a bend his car went off the track at very high speed.

During his recovery from the accident van Hulzen wrote a letter dated October 12, 1930– while still remaining in the Spanish Hospital at Andoain - to the Dutch Magazine “De Auto”, which was published in the issue of October 23, 1930. It stated that in the race he started from behind in his orange coloured car. Everything went very well and in the 16th round van Hulzen efficiently replenished fuel and water. He wrote that he expected to end in 2nd place behind Varzi on Maserati.
2 or 3 kilometer after the 16th round the accident happened. His car somersaulted 4 times and van Hulzen was thrown out of his car hitting the ground hard with his head and right shoulder. His car, brimful with fuel, caught fire. When van Hulzen arrived at the hospital the medical staff feared for his life.

Some Spanish newspapers had already pronounced van Hulzen’s death. Doctors considered a trephining to relieve a swelling in his head. Van Hulzen was 3 days out of consciousness and suffered temporary loss of memory. During his 5 weeks recovery in hospital van Hulzen was visited twice by the daughters of the Spanish king.

From May 1931 van Hulzen was on long term leave from the military forces. But in August 1939 he was called back into service due to the general mobilisation because of the war threat. He died in a plane crash on May 14, 1940 after an evacuation flight from Holland to France.

Excerpts from “DUTCH BUGATTI COMPETITORS IN INTERNATIONAL MOTOR SPORT EVENTS 1929-1936.” Originally published in NL/B register Volume III (2012) and supplemented in Volume IV (2015), containing a total of 5 pages on Cornelis Johannes van Hulzen. After further additional research since 2015 this has been extended to a 20 page biography of Cornelis Johannes van Hulzen, currently still unpublished.

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