Bernardus Marinus “Ben” Pon was born on 9 December 1936 in Leiden, but he grew up in Amersfoort. His father, Ben Pon Sr., was a car dealer and in 1947 he became the first importer of Volkswagens, after already showing interest in the VW Beetle before the war. The Beetles became a success in the Netherlands, and Pon Sr. also started importing them into the United States, where they eventually also became popular. But Pon Sr. is probably even more famous as the inventor of the Volkswagen Transporter, better known as the Volkswagen Van. His company still exists, and still imports Volkswagens.
By 1961, his son had begun racing sportscars, entering in several World Championship events. His car – not very surprising considering his father’s job – was a Porsche 356B Carrera, which he drove together with his friend, Graaf Carel Godin de Beaufort (NED). They achieved several top three classifications in their class, and Pon also won the GT1.6 class at the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans, riding with Herbert Linge (GER) at that occasion.
Since 1957, his friend Godin de Beaufort had been racing in a few Formula 1 races per season, driving Porsches for his own team, Ecurie Maarsbergen. In 1961, he had begun to race the entire season, and for the first race of the 1962 season, the Dutch GP at Zandvoort, he offered Pon to drive a second Porsche for his team. The Porsche was outpowered by the rest of the field, and Pon qualified as 18th (out of 20). Nevertheless, he took off quickly for his first – and last – Formula 1 GP. In the third lap, Pon had a heavy crash, his Porsche flipping over and throwing Pon out. He was lucky to get away without any injuries, but he swore never to race a single-seater again. Instead, he continued racing sportscar races for Porsche with some success, and he finished 8th overall and second in his class at Le Mans in 1964 with Henk van Zalinge (NED). That same year, Godin de Beaufort died of injuries sustained during the training for the German GP. In 1965, Pon was one of the founders the Dutch Racing Team, although he did not race that much himself anymore. Still, he won the S2.0 Class (7th overall) at Le Mans in 1967, together with Vic Elford (GBR) – his last big result before quitting racing the next year.
At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Ben Pon formed the Dutch skeet team together with Eric Swinkels (silver medallist in 1976). However, the Dutch team performed disappointingly, with Pon finishing in 31st, and Swinkels in 35th.
Later, Pon, who had also worked for his father’s enterprise, started a wine distribution company. At present, Pon is making his own Bernardus wine in the Carmel Valley in California.
|1972 Summer||35||München||Shooting||Mixed Skeet||Netherlands||NED||31|