It’s 1988 and Ari Vatanen is pushing his Peugeot 405 T16 to victory on the Paris-Dakar route. He’s flying across a sandy plain at full throttle when a truck starts to overtake him! Special racing DAF TurboTwin with 1,220 hp. It was then that the most famous video was created, where two racing monsters fight at a speed of over 200 km/h in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Africa. Vatanen was said to be terribly angry. And de Rooy? He said he just smiled and said that he simply did not lose weight.

The name Jan de Rooy is known to loyal Dakar fans, but in Holland, his native country, everyone really knows him. He was not only a competitor, but also the owner of a huge forwarding company and a successful businessman.

Born on February 19, 1943, he was only twenty-two years old when his father handed over the management of De Rooy Transport to him. He immediately began to successfully develop it, added the transportation of excess cargo and was not afraid to borrow to develop the business.

He wasn’t afraid at all. He entered the world of rallycross in 1969 and won the Dutch championship a year later, and then four more times. He also raced in the European Championship, finishing second in the Touring Car Division in 1979 with a Ford Escort and third in Division 2 in 1982. But who wants to race a passenger car when you have a yard full of trucks…

In 1982, he made his debut at the Paris-Dakar Rally behind the wheel of an essentially quite ordinary DAF NTT 2800 truck with 200 horsepower. He finished sixty-seventh overall and third among the trucks, but it caught him. A year later, this time with a DAF 3300, which was tuned together with the manufacturer for a race in Africa, he placed thirty-fourth overall and was third in class. And then it came! The racing DAF 3300 of the year had two cabs and two engines. However, the two-headed monster, as everyone called him, did not reach the finish line at the Pink Lake. A broken rear wheel and a lack of spare parts spoiled de Rooy’s premiere of his darling. He returned with it a year later, the truck had more power and was a ton lighter, but due to a late time penalty, de Rooy didn’t win (again).

Photo: Team De Rooy

A two-headed beast. The rear cabin was just a shell, but this special DAF already had two engines.

Meanwhile, DAF and de Rooy were already preparing a real racing special. The DAF TurboTwin was born, a truck that could be compared to the monsters of the legendary Group B in rallying. They installed it in 1986, and from the first kilometers it was clear that the 950-horsepower monster is capable of going against cars as well. But de Rooy simply broke his front axle.

“Give that guy a tank and he’ll destroy it,” laughed Karel Loprais, who was friends with de Rooy. He has repeatedly admitted that he has no chance against a racing special like this special DAF. And everyone knows very well that Loprais’s strategy was to ride carefully, but at the same time fast, while he, on the other hand, skimped on technique.

Photo: Team De Rooy

De Rooy absolutely wanted to attack the top five in 1988, according to Lopraise, he also thought about winning.

De Rooy improved his TurboTwin again and won the Dakar with it in 1987. In the truck category, he beat second-placed Loprais by over fourteen hours and finished eleventh overall. The plan for 1988 was clear! Another win in the trucks and an attack on the top five. “In reality, Jan was thinking about winning,” Loprais said in an interview. “He and his truck were running their own race. In terms of performance and speed, we cannot compete with them.”

And de Rooy really meant it. He put his older truck in the hands of his friend Theo van de Rijt and got himself behind the wheel of the 1,220-horsepower beast, his new racing truck, which no one called anything other than Bull. Massive chassis construction, flawlessly coordinated control of two engines and two gearboxes, perhaps an infinite amount of torque, and also acceleration to 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds and a maximum speed of 220 km/h. Although the DAF Turbotwin II was in the truck category, the dimensions of 7,100 × 2,500 × 2,300 mm (length, width, height) did not quite correspond to ordinary trucks. And de Rooy took only the most necessary parts, spare wheels and 760 liters of fuel.

Photo: Team De Rooy

DAF racing team at the Dakar in 2008.

But in the end, 1988 was not victorious, but tragic. On the sand blind, van de Rijt’s truck took off at high speed and flipped six times after landing hard. Kees van Loevezijn, the navigator, was found dead a few tens of meters from the wreckage of the truck, still strapped into a seat that had come loose. DAF and the entire Dutch team withdraw from the competition, Loprais wins the Dakar for the first time, Jiří Moskal and Liaz finish second.

Photo: Team De Rooy

The dream of victory turned out to be completely different in the end…

A few years later, however, Jan de Rooy admitted that he wanted to continue: “Yes, I counted on the risk of an accident every time I got behind the wheel,” said Jan de Rooy. “But I was sorry that it happened to Theo. I was really devastated by it. However, this was no reason for me to quit! It wouldn’t bring him back to life and we were absolutely leading a few stages before and we were fifth on the day of the accident! But the DAF management at the time was afraid of bad publicity and withdrew our team. We agreed that no matter what happens, we will simply reach the destination. So I didn’t see why it should be any different. DAF then terminated our factory support contract and sold all the equipment.”

Photo: Team De Rooy

The twin-engine DAF had an output of 1,220 horsepower and drove up to 220 km/h. After the accident of the second truck, the Dakar was banned for trucks and their participation was allowed only in 1990, this time with a limited maximum speed.

De Rooy did not return to the wheel of a racing truck until 2002 with his son Gerard de Rooy, when they finished sixth in class. The father and son duo continued, de Rooy Sr.’s last Dakar was in 2007 and he had to retire after five stages. His last rally was the inaugural Africa Eco Race in 2009. A year later, Jan De Rooy handed over the team and management of the company to Gerard, and he managed to win the Dakar in 2012, twenty-five years after his father. Only he no longer drove a DAF, but an Iveco.

We have now received the sad news that Jan de Rooy passed away on January 30, 2024. After a short illness, in peace and quiet, in the company of those closest to you. There is another legend in the skies of Dakar. And no one doubts that he will go full throttle there too! Say hello to Karl Lopraise, please.