Laurens van Hoepen

ART GP impressed by FRECA rookie Laurens van Hoepen: ‘We’ve got an uncut diamond’

ART GP won the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) title in 2021 with Grégoire Saucy, but narrowly missed out on the teams’ championship. With returning drivers Gabriele Minì and Mari Boya, and rising prospect Laurens van Hoepen, ART GP is looking for revenge. F1 Feeder Series caught up with ART Team Manager Mathieu Zangarelli to talk about his 2022 driver lineup.

By Perceval Wolff

When you look at the established top teams in FRECA (R-ace GP, ART, Prema), they sport just two rookies: Sebastián Montoya (Prema) and Laurens Van Hoepen (ART GP). And while the Colombian is already an established name because of his F4 and FRAC performances, the 16-year-old Dutchman is the biggest unknown on the FRECA grid this year.

From karting to Formula Regional

Multiple kart champion in his country, Formula E World Champion Nyck de Vries protégé Van Hoepen shone on the international karting scene by winning the IAME Euro X30 Series in the Mini category in 2017, and by finishing 3rd in the CIK-FIA European Championship in the KZ2 category.

FRECA however, is not the Dutchman’s first single-seater experience. He competed in the second half of the 2021 Ultimate Cup Series, a French-European series using both Formula Regional and Formula Renault cars. As a non-FIA-certified series, the Ultimate Cup Series (formerly VdeV Challenge) is not part of the FIA Global Pathway but has already spawned several drivers like Alex Peroni and Grégoire Saucy.

In nine races, Van Hoepen won six times and remained unbeaten in qualifying, beating the likes of Carmen Jordá, Théo Vaucher or former Formula E race-winner Nicolas Prost. Following this impressive run of performances, Laurens Van Hoepen was tested by ART GP in the FRECA post-season tests in November and was signed in January of this year.

A new name in FRECA

“To sign Laurens (Van Hoepen, ed.) is a gamble, for sure”, ART Team Manager Mathieu Zangarelli explains. “He doesn’t have a lot of experience in single-seaters, but he has plenty of room for improvement. I believe we’ve got an uncut diamond with us. He is a very young driver, with very little experience. He is a driver we need to train, with a lot of details to improve.”

Last season, ART GP surprised everybody by signing Thomas ten Brinke, another young Dutch talent. Ten Brinke however eventually decided to retire from racing after five rounds due to personal and mental issues.

We are on a two-year project with Laurens, but we think he could surprise people in the second half of the season

Mathieu Zangarelli (ART GP, Team Manager)

Zangarelli is not afraid of a similar scenario with Van Hoepen. “Laurens is very different from Thomas ten Brinke. With Laurens, we really feel the engagement of the driver, he is passionate. With Ten Brinke, it felt like it was more his father’s dream [racing driver Bernhard ten Brinke, ed.].”

“At the post-season testing, we tested several rookie drivers alongside Laurens. We were very interested in Tim Tramnitz who has a very interesting profile, but at the end of the day, we went with Laurens. We are on a two-year project with Laurens, but we think he could surprise people in the second half of the season, after having gained more experience.”

Gabriele Mini
Gabriele Mini (ART GP) | Credit: FRECA

Returning drivers and title favourites

Besides Laurens van Hoepen, ART GP made the choice to go for two more experienced drivers: Italian Gabriele Minì (6th in FRECA with ART) and Spanish driver Mari Boya (14th with Van Amersfoort Racing).

“Gabriele Minì knows the team and has been working with us for over a year now. He is a natural leader and his objective is clearly to get the title”, Zangarelli reveals.

He is a natural leader and his objective is clearly to get the title

Mathieu Zangarelli on Gabriele Mini

Concerning Boya: “He still needs to get a bit more comfortable with the team. He has to learn new methods, master a new environment. But his evolution is really satisfying, he is starting to feel more and more integrated into the team. The communication is good with the engineers. He is a very underrated driver, I think he could surprise some people this season.”ART GP will start its FRECA campaign on the 22nd of April at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, the first of the ten rounds in 2022.

M
Mari Boya (ART GP) | Credit: FRECA

Header photo credit: FRECA

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