The Driver

When Jacques Swaters returned home to Belgium after World War II in 1945, he needed an outlet in which he could channel his energy and passion. His good friend, André Pilette, had an idea.

Swaters and Pilette were roommates, and the two friends formed a common passion for automobiles. At the time, Swaters owned a BMW 328 and Pilette owned an old Alpha prewar.

While driving around town, they discovered their need for speed and raced each other through main roads, acting like real race car drivers. Over the next three years, Swaters attended the University Catholique de Louvain while honing his driving skills along with Pilette.

In 1948, Swaters purchased a Le Mans MG sports car with the inheritance he received from his father and entered it in the Spa 24 Hours at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a challenging Belgian venue that was a prime location for European racing.

Paul Frere, another of Swaters’ friends who also never officially raced before, became his co-driver. Pilette did not join them at the race because he was finishing his studies. Swaters and Frere finished at an average speed of 75 miles per hour and placed fourth in class.

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  • July 3, 1954 - Swaters behind the wheel of his Jaguar C at the 12 Hour Reims. (© Andre Van Bever - Collection Nicole Englebert)
    July 3, 1954 – Swaters behind the wheel of his Jaguar C at the 12 Hour Reims. (© Andre Van Bever – Collection Nicole Englebert)