Daniël Willemsen

Daniël Johan Nico Willemsen (born 7 May 1975 in Lochem, Gelderland) is a Dutch sidecarcross rider and ten times World Champion.

Daniël Willemsen
NationalityNetherlands Netherlands
Born (1975-05-07) May 7, 1975 (age 46)
Lochem, Netherlands
Bike number111
WebsiteTeam Willemsen website
Motorcycle racing career statistics
Sidecarcross World Championship
Active years1994 – present
ManufacturersHonda-EML (1994–1995)
Zabel-EML (1996)
Zabel-BSU (1997–2001)
Zabel-VMC (2002–2009)
Zabel-WSP (2010–present)
Championships(10) 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012
2015 championship position4th
Starts Wins Podiums Poles F. laps Points
427 197 299 7,763

Willemsen is the most successful rider in sidecarcross history, winning the title ten times, in 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He has also won the Dutch national sidecarcross championship nine times, winning it last in 2008 and the Belgian championship twice.

For his success in motor sport he was made a member of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 2005. His home town Lochem also has named a street after him in 2005. He is the most successful World Championship sidecarcross rider and his ten titles place him seventh, as of 2011, in the all-time FIM World Champions list, with Giacomo Agostini with 15 titles at the top.[1]

In 2007, he took part in the Dakar Rally, finishing tenth in the solo motorcycle class. To make up for the canceled Dakar Rally 2008, he took part in the Tuareq Rally in March/April 2008, winning the race.


Daniël Willemsen in race action

Willemsen's sidecar experience started in 1981, when he and his brother Marcel, aged six and four, drove in a home-made Hond 50 cc side car, under the guidance of their father Berry, who had also been a sidecar racer. However, it took the brothers another ten years before they were allowed to take part in sidecar races.[2]

The two brothers entered the senior Dutch championship in 1994, but were barred from racing together in the World Championship because Marcel was not yet 18 years old and Daniël had to find a different passenger instead. Marcel joined his brother in this competition 1995, when he was finally old enough.[2] Willemsen's first World Championship race was in 1994 at the Dutch Grand Prix.[3] After teaming up with his brother in 1995, who later became a world championship rider in his own right, his track record started to improve. The two brothers won their first race on 12 May 1996 when they won race two in Baugé, France. The Wiilemsens won their first Grand Prix in 1997 in Estonia.[3]

After finishing third in 1997, suffering a bad accident at the German GP,[2] and second in 1998, the two won their first world championship in 1999, taking it out by one point and beating the then current champions Kristers Serģis / Artis Rasmanis.

In February 2000, the two brothers had a serious accident in a training run in Italy, which saw Marcel temporarily parallised and unable to continue his career.[2] In his stead, for the next two seasons, Sven Verbrugge from Belgium became Daniël's partner and the two finished second in the overall standing in 2000 and 2001. 2002 saw a repeat of this result, now with Alfons Eggers as his passenger. With Kaspars Stupelis from Latvia as his partner, he won the 2003 and 2004 world championship. Sven Verbrugge returned for the 2005 and 2006 season and they took out two more world championships together. In 2007, the Swiss Reto Grütter was Daniël's partner and with him he won his record sixth title. In the 2008 season, Willemsen again raced with Reto Grütter as his partner. An injury prevented Grütter from taking part in the first race of the season and Willemsen replaced him with Bruno Kaelin for the first round. In race fourteen of the season, the team was disqualified after winning the race due to Grütter losing a glove, after a protest by Kristers Serģis.[4] The duo won the 2008 championship convincingly, with a 97 point gap to the second-placed Kristers Serģis.

For the 2009 World Championship, Willemsen was teaming up in the first GP with Belgian passenger Dagwin Sabbe, continuing his habit of changing passengers at regular interval. From the second event onwards, he used veteran passenger Sven Verbrugge once more. On 5 July 2009, Willemsen broke his collar bone in a Dutch championship race, ruling him out of racing in a decisive phase of the world championship, just before the end of a summer break in the competition.[5] The duo missed the three following events, thereby losing the leadership in the competition. Upon return, the team could not achieve the same dominance as before Willemsen's injury and finished only fifth in the overall standings, having to let the Belgian-Latvian team of Joris Hendrickx and Kaspars Liepiņš take out the championship. In the last event of the season, Verbrugge broke his thumb and the team was unable to score any points. Daniël Willemsen however declared already before the race that he would try to win title number eight in 2010,[6] which he successfully did.

In 2011, Willemsen started once more with 43-year-old Sven Verbrugge as his passenger, after an injury to first-choice passenger Roman Vasyliaka. It is the fifth time that Willemsen and Verbrugge are racing together in the competition.[7] Willemsen temporarily switched to Ondrej Cermak as his passenger for the first of two German GP's because of an injury to Verbrugge. Willemsen and his passenger clinched the World Championship at the second-last race of the season, at Slagelse, Denmark, having a 53 point lead over Latvians Jānis and Lauris Daiders at the time.[8][9]

Willemsen already announced that he would aim for title number ten in 2012.[9] The last race event of the 2011 season saw the World Champions, Willemsen and Verbrugge, failing to score any points. A dispute during qualifying between the two lead to Verbrugge walking out during the first qualifying session. He later returned to take part in the "last chance", where the team qualified for the race after all. Verbrugge however was injured during a fall and had to be taken to hospital where his arm was placed into a plaster, ruling the team out of the race.[10]

Willemsen took out his tenth title in 2012 despite having to use three different passengers throughout the season. Haralds Kurpnieks broke his wrist in the first Grand Prix of the season and replacement Kenny van Gaalen suffered a knee injury in the second French Grand Prix, making Lauris Daiders his passenger for the last five GP's.[11][12][13][14]

At the opening GP of the 2013 season in Fraunefeld, Switzerland, Willemsen suffered eleven fractures when his sidecar overturned and he had to be removed by paramedics. A broken collarbone and five broken ribs meant he miss a large number of races of the 2013 season and was unable to defend his title.[15]

The 2014 season saw a return of Robbie Bax, brother of competitor Etienne Bax, as his passenger despite major disagreements between him and Willemsen. The pair won the opening race of the season but had an accident at the second race at Oss, leaving Willemsen concussed.[16] The team missed the last two grand prix of the season because of injury and finished ninth overall in the World Championship.

The 2015 season, with Robbie Bax as his passenger again, saw Willemsen win his first GP since August 2012 when he won the event at Genk, Belgium, on 28 June, and finish the season in fourth place overall. Willemsen, with new passenger Peter Beunk, started the 2016 season well, leading the World Championship after three events, but then suffered multiple fractures in his jaw in the qualifying for the fourth event and was forced to miss Grand Prix because of the injury.[17]

Season by seasonEdit

In some seasons Daniël Willemsen used multiple passengers throughout the year:

Season Passenger Equipment Position Points Races Wins Second Third
1994   Reiner Stuyvenberg Honda-EML 23 30 2 1
1995   Bruno Bouvet Honda-EML 25 8 2
  Christian Verhagen 4 2
  Marcel Willemsen 10 2
1996   Marcel Willemsen Zabel-EML 12 82 16 2
1997   Marcel Willemsen Zabel-BSU 3 231 14 5 4 2
  Sven Verbrugge 40 2 2
1998   Marcel Willemsen Zabel-BSU 2 279 18 6 7 2
1999   Marcel Willemsen Zabel-BSU 1 386 24 13 5 1
2000   Sven Verbrugge Zabel-BSU 2 320 22 5 4 7
2001   Sven Verbrugge Zabel-BSU 2 377 22 8 5 3
  Premsyl Novotny 50 2 2
2002   Alfons Eggers Zabel-VMC 2 145 8 1 5
  Sven Verbrugge 88 4 4
  Bart Notten 86 4 3 1
  Dagwin Sabbe 199 12 1 5 1
2003   Kaspars Stupelis Zabel-VMC 1 561 24 13 9
2004   Kaspars Stupelis Zabel-VMC 1 572 26 18 4 1
2005   Sven Verbrugge Zabel-VMC 1 478 22 15 4
2006   Sven Verbrugge Zabel-VMC 1 341 16 13
2007   Reto Grütter Zabel-VMC 1 375 16 15
2008   Bruno Kaelin Zabel-VMC 1 36 2 1
  Reto Grütter 495 22 19 1
2009   Dagwin Sabbe Zabel-VMC 5 25 2 1
  Sven Verbrugge 341 17 11
2010   Gertie Eggink Zabel-WSP 1 481 24 14 1 3
  Dagwin Sabbe 75 4 1 1
2011   Sven Verbrugge Zabel-WSP 1 437 21 14 3
  Ondřej Čermák 50 2 2
2012   Haralds Kurpnieks Zabel-WSP 1 0 1
  Kenny van Gaalen 249 10 5 4 1
  Lauris Daiders 204 10 6 2 0
2013   Robbie Bax Zabel-WSP 21 49 7
  Dagwin Sabbe 30 2
2014   Robbie Bax Zabel-WSP 9 179 14 1
2015   Robbie Bax Zabel-WSP 4 505 29 4 2 4
2016   Peter Beunk Zabel-WSP
Overall 1994 – 2016 7,763 427 197 73 28

Source:"The John Davey Pages – DANIEL WILLEMSEN". John Davey. Retrieved 2008-04-04.

  • Passengers in italics.


Year Rally Team Number Equipment Position
2007 Dakar-rally Yamaha Holland Team 233 Yamaha WR 450F 48th
2008 Dakar-rally Yamaha Holland Team 47 Yamaha WR 450F race canceled
Touareg-rally Rally Team Touareg Rally 2008 75 Yamaha WR 450F 1st
2009 Dakar-rally Yamaha Holland Team 47 Yamaha WR 450F 21st


World ChampionshipEdit


  • Champions: (9) 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008
  • Runners-up: (3) 1997, 2005, 2015



  1. ^ Riders with the greatest number of FIM World Championship titles – 2011/2012 update Archived 2012-04-05 at the Wayback Machine FIM website, published: 26 April 2012, accessed: 23 July 2012
  2. ^ a b c d History Team Willemsen website, accessed: 4 April 2011
  3. ^ a b Daniel & Sven Willemsen & Verbrugge Archived 2012-10-25 at the Wayback Machine FIM website, accessed: 23 July 2012
  4. ^ Team Willemsen website – No points in second heat GP Germanie?! Archived 2008-10-10 at the Wayback Machine (in Dutch) accessed: 5 August 2008
  5. ^ Team Willemsen website[permanent dead link] (in Dutch) De Telegraaf article from 6 July 2009, accessed: 14 July 2009
  6. ^ Rudersberg schreibt Geschichte (in German), Race report for the last event in 2009, accessed: 25 September 2009
  7. ^ Seitenwagen: Willemsen mit Verbrugge (in German) Speedweek, published: 24 March 2011, accessed: 3 April 2011
  8. ^ Sven Verbrugge samen met Nederlander wereldkampioen zijspancrossen De Morgen, published: 4 September 2011, accessed: 6 September 2011
  9. ^ a b Willemsen/Verbrugge wereldkampioen De Stentor, published: 4 September 2011, accessed: 6 September 2011
  10. ^ Janis und Lauris Daiders beenden die WM in Rudersberg mit GP-Sieg (in German) www.offroad7.de, published: 12 September 2011, accessed: 15 September 2011
  11. ^ NEWS: Race-report Pernes les Fontaine (in Dutch) Team Willemsen website, accessed: 17 September 2012
  12. ^ DANIËL WILLEMSEN ZET MET VERVANGENDE BAKKENIST JACHT OP DE WERELDTITEL VOORT (in Dutch) Team Willemsen website, accessed: 17 September 2012
  13. ^ Willemsen grijpt tiende wereldtitel (in Dutch) De Stentor, published: 16 September 2012, accessed: 17 September 2012
  14. ^ Tiende wereldtitel zijspancrosser Willemsen (in Dutch) De Telegraaf, published: 16 September 2012, accessed: 17 September 2012
  15. ^ Zware blessure Willemsen De Stentor, published: 1 April 2013, accessed: 6 April 2013
  16. ^ Gespann-WM: Rennen der Überraschungen (in German) speedweek.com, published: 14 April 2014, accessed: 24 April 2014
  17. ^ MOTOCROSS-GESPANN-WM MX-Gespann-WM Schopfheim: Giraud/Musset neue Leader (in German) speedweek.com, published: 13 June 2016, accessed: 21 June 2016

External linksEdit

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Kristers Serģis
Sidecarcross World Champion
Succeeded by
Kristers Serģis
Preceded by
Kristers Serģis
Sidecarcross World Champion
Succeeded by
Joris Hendrickx
Preceded by
Joris Hendrickx
Sidecarcross World Champion
Succeeded by
Ben Adriaenssen
Preceded by
Jacky Janssen
Dutch national sidecarcross champion
1998, 1999
Succeeded by
Jacky Janssen
Preceded by
Jacky Janssen
Dutch national sidecarcross champion
Succeeded by
Eric Schrijver
Preceded by
Eric Schrijver
Dutch national sidecarcross champion
Succeeded by
Peter Steegmans
Preceded by
Jan Goethals
Belgian national sidecarcross champion
Succeeded by
Joris Hendrickx