Not so speedy Gonzales
- Mattijs Diepraam
- 8W February 2000 issue
- Nelson Piquet - Memories of Nelson Piquet, by Ricardo Pereira
- Ricardo Zunino - The happy volunteer, by Mattijs Diepraam
1979 Canadian GP
Perhaps the last of the gentleman drivers in F1, Hector Rebaque lived through all of the fases seventies F1 came to be known for. Starting with a backmarker outfit, the Mexican left to form his own private team, then pursued the design of his own DFV kit car before clinching the biggest break any mediocre F1 driver got with a top-line Grand Prix team since Jochen Mass was invited to join McLaren (although we are probably being unfair to Jochen now).
Mind you, Hector was no slouch - some of his performances at Brabham really stood out - but his rush to get into Grands Prix was perhaps ill-advised. Coming over to Britain as an 18-year-old, Rebaque was in F2 within a year, driving for Fred Opert's team, the same outfit which have him a Formula Atlantic ride the season before. In 1975 and 1976 moved back to the North American continent to contest the Canadian Atlantic series and then made the giant leap into Formula One. With Hesketh, first as the third driver in the No.39 car later taken over by Ian Ashley, then succeeding in Ertl's footsteps, the 22-year-old Mexican was way out of his depth, although he managed the remarkable feat of qualifying once, sneaking in as 24th and last on the grid for the German GP.
Eager to stay in F1 but with no team managers interested in picking him for the 1978 season, Hector decided to start his own team. For this, he bought the ex-Andretti Lotus 78 to become the last true privateer owner/driver. The Grand Prix-winning machine should have been good enough to get rid of those awful DNQs behind his name but the first half of the season was a disaster. Rebaque qualified just four times and even suffered the embarrassment of retiring from the Brazilian GP through driver fatigue! For Hector, it was learning by doing and as the season wore on he started to get his act together. By the time the circus returned to Hockenheim, the scene of his single 1977 qualification, Rebaque qualified his Team Rebaque Lotus inside the top 20. On an essentially easy driver circuit, the young Mexican then surprised by taking a point at the flag. He followed that up with another excellent 18th on the grid in Austria, but then his effort started to tail off again, resulting in yet more DNQs at Monza and the Glen.
For the following season, Rebaque struck another deal with Colin Chapman to take over the championship-winning Lotus 79. Mid-grid qualifying positions were to be expected, yet Rebaque failed to deliver while work was going on to construct a car of his own. Rebaque's venture into constructing was perhaps foolhardy, but one cannot claim it was ill-prepared. The HR100 was designed and built at Penske's British base in Poole - under the guidance of John Barnard, no less - which certainly meant it was delivered to the Rebaque team at high standards. The car was some sort of Lotus 79 lookalike (then again, which car wasn't in 1979) but copied the Williams FW07 sidepod arrangement. Granted, there are lesser examples to steal from. Yet the thought remains that the original should still be faster than the copy.
And so it happened. At its first outing, at Monza, Hector set 28th time with his own machine, while the race before at Zandvoort he had managed to bring home his Lotus 79 seventh, his best result of the season. In Canada (pictured here) he put the car on the grid, only to suffer an embarrassing engine mounting failure. His American appearance turned to nothing again and that was the last we saw of the HR100. Originally planned to continue into 1980, the team ran into entry trouble with the CSI, so three appearances was all the only Mexican F1 car in history was going to have.
The idea to return was finally set aside when Hector brought Pemex money to Brabham to replace the terrible Ricardo Zunino. It was at Brabham, as the firm number two to Nelson Piquet, that Rebaque started to flourish and even moulded himself into a sometime contender for top places. Of course he wasn't deserving such a good car and a talented driver such as Riccardo Patrese only highlighted the fact that Zunino and Rebaque (and later Hesnault as well) were essentially wasting good material. With his decision of building a team around a top driver and signing a well-budgeted support driver, Bernie Ecclestone set a trend Michael Schumacher followed up on later. No wonder Bernie is a fan of Michael's. Nelson Piquet, who in this respect has a similar mind to Schumacher, must have been very influential in that decision as well. So that's just too bad for the effort towards the constructors championship?
Well, pay driver or not, Hector Rebaque actually got into the scoring rhythm during the 1981 season. In probably the year we saw Piquet at his best, helped by Gordon Murray's truly phenomenal Brabham BT49 - and, controversially, its newly introduced ride-height lowering technique… - Rebaque was frequently seen at the front as well. Especially on tracks requiring low driver skills, Hector made good use of the BT49 to beat some very respected names. The highlight of his career came in the Argentine GP. After qualifying 6th Rebaque ran second from Piquet before the distributor rotor arm spoilt his chances of a sensational podium finish. Later in the season Hector did manage to score a triplet of fourth places and one fifth, to end up with 11 points and 10th in the championship.
It wasn't good enough. At Monaco, where he failed to qualify, his deficiencies came shining through, and on various other events he just qualified too well down to form a threat. On top of that, Brabham were starting off on a turbo adventure with BMW, while Parmalat was pushing for an Italian driver. Ecclestone wisely decided to give Rebaque the boot and sign Patrese as a regular points scorer. 1982 became a developmental year for Brabham, Piquet wasting several good opportunities with the BT50 turbo car. But that was a calculated risk since they had Patrese winning races in the BT49D. Going into its fourth evolution and fifth year of competition, the Murray supercar proved that it earns at least the same amount of appreciation as the acclaimed Williams FW07 design has received over the years.
Meanwhile, out of a drive in F1, Hector Rebaque tried his luck across the pond, where he even inherited an Indycar win at Road America. However, that didn't get the ball rolling. On the Michigan Superspeedway, Hector suffered a huge crash, spoiling his taste for Indycars - and racing cars altogether - for good. He saw out the season but then retired at the young age of 29.
Reader's Why by Vibhavan Prasad
Another in a long string of driver-owned teams which proved to be a disaster, Rebaque started his own team in late-1979 bailing out on the year-old Lotus79 that he was using for most of the year. To be fair to the team, though, they had only 3 GP participations, in which he qualified once in Canada, before retiring from the race with technical problems. The team, then, quit F1.
Rebaque (b.1956) was another Mexican following in the footsteps of the "Hermanos Rodriguez" or the Rodriguez brothers. However, he did not come even close to achieving the success of the two illustrious brothers. Rebaque began his F1 career in mid-1977 with an outdated year-old Hesketh. In 6 attempts, he qualified only once, at Hockenheim before retiring from the race with engine problems. With a year-old Lotus78 in 1978, Hector managed a single points finish, at Hockenheim. For 1979, he again began with a year-old Lotus, the Lotus 79 before moving to the Rebaque-Cosworth in late-1979. He only qualified once, at Montreal, but he retired due to problems with the chassis. Overall, the year was even more disappointing than 1978 with no points finishes, whatsoever. In 1980, he drove a handful of races for Brabham, replacing Ricardo Zunino in mid-season. He again had a solitary points finish, at Montreal. This was, surprisingly, the first time in his F1 career that he drove a "works" car.
He stayed at Brabham for what proved to be his last ever season in F1 in 1981. In Brazil, he spun out of the race. Although he had retired from races before due to physical problems, this was, quite amazingly, Hector's first ever DNF due to driver-related problems in the 29 races that he had driven upto then. Although, Hector had several points finishes, it paled in comparison with his teammate, Piquet, who won the drivers' championship. He was dropped for 1982 to accomodate Riccardo Patrese's entry into the team.This marked the end of the F1 adventure for the Mexican and he quit Formula One.