Collin Veijer (18) made a name for himself in the road racing world championship this year with a strong debut year in Moto3. What does the driver from Staphorst have to give up for this and what ambitions does he have? An interview with the racing talent living in Spain.
Don’t think that motorcycle racer Collin Veijer is recovering on the beach after a long season. When he answers the phone, engine noises are heard in the background. “We’re motocrossing,” he says. “I’ve been doing that all week. We also drive on a flat track and on asphalt. We do that to keep the feeling and not sit still.”
Preparation for the 2024 season has already started for Veijer. The talent does not take time to look back on his first year in Moto3. “I’m busy with next season and not looking back at all.”
Veijer finished seventh in his debut year in Moto3, the penultimate step on the ladder towards MotoGP. The Dutchman impressed with stable points finishes and became increasingly involved in the battle at the front as the season progressed. In Malaysia, Veijer rode Hans Spaan as the last Dutch winner in the world championship. Now the focus is already on 2024.
Motorcycle racer Veijer (18) stunts in Malaysia with first GP victory
‘I can’t do anything in the Netherlands’
Veijer does this preparation near Barcelona. In addition to training on the motorcycle, he cycles and runs. It is all possible because of the mild climate in Spain. “I can’t do anything in the Netherlands, I can train here.”
As a teenager without family in Barcelona; he will do anything to reach the top. That doesn’t mean it comes effortlessly for him. “I don’t miss the Netherlands itself, but I do miss my sisters and mother every now and then. And the family anyway. That is the hardest thing for me. I think I have seen them for a total of three weeks this year, spread throughout the year.”
Video calling offers a solution, but it also falls short. “It’s different from when you see them in real life. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s not always pleasant.”
Veijer went to school in the Netherlands, but his life now largely takes place in Spain. Due to his busy schedule, Veijer travels a lot. Home is Barcelona, and real home is Staphorst. “But I’m only there at Christmas, that’s all. I have friends here with whom I hang out a lot. We do have time to go out, especially now that the season is over. Normally we often sit at someone’s house, just having a nice time. “
His father Jurjen is a familiar face on the circuit. “He’s always there,” says Colin. “My uncle used to too, but he doesn’t come that often anymore.”
Veijer in the lead in the Moto3 race in Thailand. Photo: Getty Images
Strong English accent
Veijer became a world citizen at an early age. This is also noticeable because of his English accent in international interviews. He can laugh about it himself. “It’s actually Australian and British mixed together, because I live and work here with a lot of Australians and English people. Then you automatically adopt that accent.”
His height is purely Dutch. Among the smaller Spaniards, Italians and Japanese drivers, Veijer stands out with his 1.78 meters. “I’m not very tall by Dutch standards, but in the racing world 1.78 is considered quite tall. But I have a low weight, so that’s not a big problem. I can easily keep my weight low.”
Veijer has been achieving remarkable performances on his motorcycle for years. He usually follows his intuition, as in the last lap on the way to victory in Malaysia. With the two title candidates Jaume Masiá and (teammate) Ayumu Sasaki in his wake, Veijer headed for the final corner. He had no doubts: “You don’t actually think anything at all, except: I have to win this race.” And he did it in grand style.
Veijer celebrates his first victory in Malaysia. Photo: AFP
Learn to keep the peace
Not doubting was one of the things he had to master in his first year at the World Cup. “Keeping the peace was the most important thing. And making sure I didn’t get too distracted.” For example, unlike other drivers, Veijer often drives in the free practice sessions only to learn how fast he should be. Others like to ride behind each other.
“That is also encouraged by the team. We always ride alone. I learned a lot from my teammate Sasaki. But I also tried to do as much as possible myself. And at the end of the year I even passed him, so that definitely helped.”
His status has risen, but Veijer remains down-to-earth about his greater fame in the paddock. He does have contact with MotoGP riders, “but that is not that special”. Veijer sometimes talks to Fabio Di Giannantonio, the Italian race winner whom he knows from training. “And recently in Qatar, former world champion Marc Máquez came to me. He congratulated me on my victory in Malaysia. It’s nice that I get that recognition.”
With his 1.78 meters, Veijer is one of the taller drivers. Photo: Getty Images
‘Chances to become world champion’
In 2024, Veijer sees “opportunities to become world champion in Moto3”. He continues to drive for the German Intact GP, a team with which his relationship is “very good”. Yet he is also realistic. “It’s going to be difficult, there are still a lot of fast drivers. Next year the goal is to reach the top five.”
Veijer says he is not yet thinking about further steps after the Moto3. But when asked about his idols among MotoGP riders, he reveals his ambition. “I respect them, but no one is an example for me. In a few years I actually want to race against them.”
The young driver does not want to compare himself with anyone, including Max Verstappen. Although he does see the three-time Formula 1 world champion “a bit” as a role model. “Verstappen is an example of how he handles things. How he deals with his teammate, for example, or how he deals with the media. The things surrounding it. I do respect that.”
Verstappen said that he is closely following Veijer’s progress. His compatriot, seven years his junior, responds with a statement that could have come from the Limburger himself. “It’s great that he follows me, of course, but it doesn’t make me faster on the track.”