Former World Sportscar Championship entrant and driver Charles Zwolsman Sr, whose son was a Champcar racer and a sometime F3 team mate of Lewis Hamilton, has been found dead in his prison cell in his native Holland. He was 55.
Zwolsman Sr had been in trouble with the Dutch authorities on drug dealing related charges for over two decades. He had been involved in a series of arrests and convictions starting in 1988, the most recent also involving possession of weapons. Somehow he always managed to bounce back after a spell inside, and even successfully wrestled with the courts as he tried to cut down the massive multi-million euro fines he was given for making profits from illegal activities.
Sometimes using the surname ‘Hausmann,’ he raced for his own Euro Racing team in the World Sportscar Championship in 1991 and ’92. He used Spice and Lola chassis and ambitiously competed in the same class as Jaguar, Mercedes and Peugeot.
He hired the likes of Stefan Johansson and Tim Harvey, and revived the career of Heinz-Harald Frentzen. The unemployed German was on the verge of retiring when Zwolsman gave him a drive at Le Mans in 1992, and his performances led directly to a drive in Japanese F3000, and in turn to his F1 chance with Sauber a year later.
More recently, Zwolsman looked after the career of his son. Charles Jr raced for both Colin Kolles and Manor Motorsport in F3, and was team mate to Hamilton at the latter in 2004. He won the 2005 Toyota Atlantic series and later drove for Team Australia and Conquest in Champcar, finishing 13th in the 2006 standings. Charles Jr’s last significant outing was with Kolles at Le Mans in 2009.
Zwolsman Sr’s most recent arrest came in June that year, and he was apparently serving a three-year sentence. It’s reported that 36 of his associates are also involved in the ongoing legal cases related to his activities.