A formidable figure in Belgian motor sport has recently left us. We have known him for a very long time. Actually, when I lived with my parents as a young law student, I was the happy and proud owner of a dark blue second hand beetle, and Julien Mampaey serviced it with dedication.
He owned a small Esso service station at the corner of the Fruithoflaan in Berchem, Antwerp; right across our apartment, and I came to appreciate his mechanical talents. But I was also struck by his generous enthusiasm, and soon we embarked in hours long conversations about cars, me telling him bold stories about fast rally and racing cars, as I went with my father often to the Zolder circuit to see the races there. I entertained him with my stories, when I needed an hour or so break from my studies, and he was listening with awe while of course he continued to work and service the cars for his clients. His interest was awakened, and I decided to coach him somewhat more and gave him copies of the German magazine “Auto Motor & Sport”, which he read feverishly after a hard day’s work in a nice warm bath.
He devoured then everything there was to know about Alpina BMW’s, which were then all the rage. His eyes lightened up when he told enthusiastically about what he had read. Soon his gold metallic 1100 cc Renault 8 Major had to go. In its place came an orange second hand BMW 2002, with matt black accents around the bonnet. He decided to test his talents, go to Zolder and race it. “I put one litre of oil more in the sump than prescribed, so the engine gets oil in the corners”, he said proudly. He made its first successes, got bitten by the bug, and the rest of the story is well known.
There we the glorious victories of the Juma team in the Spa-Francorchamps 24 hours, which his team won in 1977, 1982 and 1983. One one of these victorious races, I vividly remember a pitstop where quick work had to be done on the engine. I stood in the Juma pits, was very close to the action. Actually, the radiator was leaking and had to be replaced. Not a second was to be lost. Of course, no easy thing on a red hot racing engine. Here, the immense bravery and commitment of Julien Mampaey clearly showed. With boiling water splashing all around, he grabbed the radiator both hands, then unbolted the hoses together with the other mechanics. He gave the brave example, as a true team leader should. He didn’t hesitate to come very close to the red hot exhaust manifold too. The job was done in no time, the engine growled again, and the car shot away from the pits, towards victory.
He had started the JUMA team up in 1975, and raced right away to victory with a 530iUS. The name of the team got even more famous when in 1998 his son Bart Mampaey achieved the last victory for BMW in the touring car championship at the wheel of a BMW 320i. Bart had then founded already his own R(acing)B(art) M(ampaey) racing team. Julien Mampaey and his team had also won the Belgian Championship with the BMW 535i, with Jean-Michel Martin, the father of Maxim at the wheel. Today, Maxim drives as a BMW Motorsport pilot in the BRM team of…Bart Mampaey.
Julien Mampaey was a man of passion, with a generous heart, which he devoted to cars and motorsport, to family and friends.
His daughter Pascal, which I remember as a small child in the Esso shop, now runs the succesful BMW JUMA concession in Mechelen together with her husband Gunther Van Lent. It is heartwarming to see the work of this valiant man continued, and his name living on.
Hans Knol ten Bensel