Dutch racer Henk Vink first made his name as a multi-time national trials champion, Henk became interested in sprinting in the late 1960s, and raced an early 500cc Kawasaki triple. There was no Drag Racing in Holland until 1975, but with the sport enjoying growth in the UK, Henk made his first appearance at Santa Pod in 1972. It would mark the start of a whirlwind journey for him, following that first time out on a Kawasaki 750cc triple. He had a full-time mechanic, Jan Smit, and his outfit would become well known as Team Big Spender! A move was soon made to a supercharged four-stroke Kawasaki nitro-burner, with help from sprinting legend Phil Manzano. The successful businessman wanted to mix it with the very best of the UK riders, and his team would cross the channel as often as they were allowed to compete over here – and the amiable crew would make many friends during their numerous trips.
There was a seemingly non-stop series of Kawasaki race bikes built for Henk to race, with technical advice sought from some of the best in the world. Henk’s fearless riding style was unlike any other rider, and he was quite happy to put a foot down at high speed, if his bike was not behaving. The man spent a lot of money on racing, but the team enjoyed themselves at the races, and became well-liked by so many race fans over here. Their hospitality was legendary among both bike and car racers.
Back home, he worked behind the scenes to try and establish a permanent race facility. Henk even brought over a Dutch Minister of State to one of the races at Santa Pod – and made him part of the team for the weekend! Henk was a determined racer, and he had a burning desire to win – and never more so than when he was up against John Hobbs. There was mutual respect and friendship – and some epic races on track between these two racers.
In 1980, Henk was racing the ex-Carl Ahlfeldt twin-engined Kawasaki, which he rode to the first seven second time by a European rider. The team performed many demos around Europe, which was beneficial in promoting the sport. Henk also set up a three country match race series in 1981, between himself and US ace rider Sam Wills.
A collaboration with rocket legend Sammy Miller was established in the early 80s, and it resulted in the quickest ever ride for Henk. The hydrogen peroxide fuelled bike was the ultimate two-wheeled acceleration machine, which first ran in this country in 1983, at Blackbushe. It would propel Henk to mid 6 second elapsed times.
The Dutch racing ace last rode in 1986. Sadly. the sport lost one of its most notable racers, when Henk suffered a fatal heart attack, following his 50thbirthday celebrations, in 1988. He led a fast-paced life, and his racing years will not be forgotten.
Profile & Portrait by Keith Lee