From the beginning
In 1978, Joop Donkervoort began a life-long obsession with creating sportscars that changed people’s lives. More than 45 years later, Donkervoorts are still changing people’s lives with unmatched feedback intimacy, full driver immersion, unheard of customer service and hypercar technology at supercar prices.
Joop Donkervoort was driven by the desire to create the ultimate sensory driving experience, to deliver a unique level of driving purity and create an unprecedented and intense bond between the drivers and their cars. The first Donkervoort did exactly that, with the ultra-lightweight sportscar combining comfort, reliability, sporting qualities and practical usability together in the ultimate driver’s dream.
It attracted attention from all over the world, in recognition that Donkervoort had developed something never seen before, even by the cars that inspired it. And the purity of the Donkervoort driving experience has not changed since.
At just 16, Joop Donkervoort sees a parked Lotus 7 on his way home from school. Fascinated, he stops to sketch it from every angle and, then and there, dedicates himself to learning how to do a better lightweight sportscar.
Donkervoort launches the S7. Now extremely rare, the S7 came about after Donkervoort bought the Dutch rights to the Lotus 7, only to find it could not receive type approval and could not be driven in The Netherlands. It needed a long list of chassis changes to meet the regulations, so Joop decided to improve the Lotus 7 his way instead, and built it in Tienhoven and the Donkervoort S7 was born.
The D10 was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show. This was a limited edition model, of which just 10 were built, featuring new innovations and improvements over the S8A. With the choice of name, Donkervoort made a clear break with the past. The last reference to the Super Seven, the ‘S’, disappeared from the model names for good.
Many carmakers have one-make racing series today, but it started for Donkervoort in 1993. At its peak, more than 30 drivers - including Joop on occasions - lined up for the gentlemanly fury of the Donkervoort Cup across northern Europe's finest racetracks. The arrive-and-drive championship lasted until 2001 and was much copied by other car makers.
After a chance meeting in the garage at the Nurburgring 24 Hour race, Donkervoort and Audi began working together to deliver a new powertrain. Audi worked closely with Donkervoort on the engine and electronics and pushed the D20 prototype development and the D8, and it was the start of a long and fruitful collaboration.
Continued sales success meant Donkervoort outgrew its Loosdrecht HQ and in 2000 it moved in to a purpose-built facility on the A6 in Lelystad, The Netherlands, just 30 minutes away from Amsterdam.
Capable of crafting 100 Donkervoorts a year, the Lelystad facility incorporated production as well as sales, marketing and engineering, all in one facility.
It was built with global expansion in mind.
Faster cars and more power meant more complex chassis engineering, so Donkervoort brought its chassis production to Lelystad in 2003. It was always in the Lelystad plans to bring the chassis in-house, and it turned Donkervoort into a full, ground-up sportscar maker, with fingertip control of quality from the first sketch to the last screw on every car.
The Nürburgring production car lap record had always been held by one of the mainstream sportscar makers, until 2004. Michael Düchting danced his Donkervoort D8 RS around the 'Ring so perfectly that he took 15 seconds off the lap record. He did it again in 2006, posting 7:14:89 and announcing Donkervoort Racing to the world.
After establishing its reliability and strength in the fury of the one-make Donkervoort Cup, the FIA European GT4 championship allowed Donkervoort to measure itself against the rest of the world's sportscar makers. The D8 GT finished first and third in its class at Spa-Francorchamps in 2008 - in its very first race. The GT4 championship might have been devised as an accelerated development program for road cars, but the speed was undeniable.
In December 2011, Donkervoort unveiled the first prototype of the new D8 GTO during a sneak preview. This newly developed Donkervoort – which shared just 5% of its parts with the D8 270 and around 30% with the more recent D8 GT – was seen as the next generation of Donkervoort. The D8 GTO is fitted with the longitudinally mounted 5-cylinder 340 hp 2.5 litre TFSI engine from Audi. What’s more, the body is made entirely of carbon fibre composite components. The D8 GTO is also about 35 centimetres longer and 15 centimetres wider than its predecessors.
Other sportscar makers had tried and failed, but In 2012 Donkervoort became the first company to meet the tough new standards for European Community Small Series Type Approval (ECSSTA) with the D8 GTO. Meeting the ECSSTA standards demanded levels of technical excellence and manufacturing quality that Donkervoort had long geared itself up to meet. Type Approval allowed Donkervoorts to be sold across Europe (including Switzerland), into Eastern Europe, across to Russia and on into the Gulf states, like the UAE.
the 2G barrier
Every other sportscar and supercar maker in the world tried and fell short, and it took Donkervoort to break the 2G cornering barrier with the production D8 GTO-JD70 in 2020. A cradle of both innovative and proven technologies, the JD70 marked a switch to Nankang tyres and had a body that was 95% carbon-fibre, with much increased downforce. It also introduced optional power steering, ABS and a paddle-shift gearbox for track-use only Donkervoorts.
January 2021 saw Donkervoort founder, Joop, retire after more than 42 years in charge of his eponymous sportscar company. Joop successfully steered Donkervoort through good and bad times, turned it from an idea into a globally respected brand and broadened its base with innovative offshoots like Ex-Core. With the elevation of Denis, active within the company since 2008, to the Managing Director position, Joop concentrates on design projects, mentoring and consultancy, and sits on the Donkervoort Advisory Board.
After a formal management training on two continents and a decade being mentored in every facet of Donkervoort by his father, Joop, Denis Donkervoort took over the management of the family business.
A manager with a clear vision for Donkervoort’s future, Denis has a long history in the brand, including winning the 2011 Dubai 24 Hour race for GT4 cars. He is fast and skilled in and out of a car, and has already expanded Donkervoort into the USA.