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ROAD TO INDY: Roldje hoping to be next Luyendyk

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Dutch drifting driver Rijkert Roldje hopes to make a career in IndyCar racing if he can find his way onto the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. (Photo: Dutch Open Drift Championship)
Dutch drifting driver Rijkert Roldje hopes to make a career in IndyCar racing if he can find his way onto the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. (Photo: Dutch Open Drift Championship)

(Ed. note: This article was our annual April Fools Day prank. Thanks to all of you who noticed - as well as those who didn't - and for being such good sports about it. I'm sure that Rijkert Roldje is "never gonna let you down.")

Rijkert Roldje is used to getting sideways on the track - he's just not used to that situation being considered "abnormal."

Roldje is a Dutch drifter - not a vagrant, but an adopter of the Japanese racing niche of drifting that is sweeping across Europe like wildfire.

Last month at Zandvoort, Roldje was sliding his BMW E-30 across the fabled circuit like a pro. But his professional future may well be in INDYCAR... fulfilling a lifelong wish to emulate his hero, Arie Luyendyk.

Roldje may be older than some of the up-and-coming Mazda Road to Indy drivers, but that hasn't dampened his enthusiasm and dreams. "I grew up watching Arie in IndyCars. I was hooked from the moment he won Rookie of the Year in 1985," Roldje remembers. "When he won in 1990, it was like a holiday for me."

Coming from Luyendyk's hometown of Sommelsdijk, it was natural that Roldje's interests would skew towards IndyCar... that is, until the split in the mid-1990s that, in Roldje's words, "diminished the category.

"We were all quite disappointed when the two American series divorced. Naturally I followed Luyendyk and celebrated when he broke the speed record at Indianapolis, but after that I lost interest somewhat."

Roldje's own career did not take wing until the Dutchman was in his late 20s. "I dreamed of being like Arie but I did not have the money or the will to do it when I was younger," he admits.

That all changed when a friend invited him to try a shifter kart for the first time - and Roldje was hooked. He became a fixture at the Oldenzaal karting track and began to believe seriously that he might have a future in motorsport.

Because of his age and having missed his window for European formula racing, Roldje elected to try full-bodied race cars instead of open wheel, but it was not until the drifting bug hit that Roldje found his opportunity.

It was Randy Bernard and the IZOD IndyCar Series' announcement of the 2012 ICONIC rules revisions that rekindled Rijkert Roldje's dormant interest in open-wheel racing. "I still keep practice with my shifter kart," he says, "and when I saw that IndyCar was once again becoming a more open formula I felt that perhaps I could start investigating opportunities there."

Roldje is currently communicating with several USF2000 teams in the hopes of securing a test, while pondering a season in a lower formula such as the Skip Barber National Series. "I know I have a long way to go," Roldje admits, "but I am closer now to my boyhood dream than I ever have been before. It is very exciting."

And maybe... just maybe... he might meet the idol of his youth at the place where Luyendyk became a worldwide icon.

For more information on Rijkert Roldje and to see how you can support his racing efforts, visit the Team Falken Europe website.