Canada's first (and only?) GP car
- Mattijs Diepraam, Felix Muelas
- 8W September 1999 issue
1963 US GP
Today, Canada is among the premier single-seater motorsport countries in the world. On the North American continent Canadian drivers have been far more successful than there United States counterparts climbing the career ladder from Toyota Atlantic and Indy Lights to Champ Cars. Paul Tracy, Greg Moore and Patrick Carpentier are the finest crop from a rich harvest of fast Canucks, all profiting from a well thought-out driver promotion scheme by tobacco giant Player's. Recently the programme successfully paved the way for Canadian racers such as Lee Bentham and Alexandre Tagliani. In Formula 1, we even have a Canadian World Champion.
But the emphasis is all on drivers. What about Canadian race car constructors? Well, sorry to disappoint you there, but the result is zilch.
That is, practically zilch...
Discounting the Wolf, which was actually designed and built in Britain, we have on record that a Canadian F1 car once took part in the World Championship.
Once. In the sense of one occasion. It finished 22 laps down. Nevertheless, it finished. And in 7th place, tantalizingly close to a Championship point! But again, twenty-two laps down. That's it really.
So is it? No, it's not. Peter Broeker's one-time F1 adventure was actually quite an achievement in a time when Canada belonged to the underdeveloped part of the world as far as motor racing tradition goes. Then again, who noticed? His performance was as marginal as you can get and Broeker and Stebro were in and out of F1 hearts before they gave another beat.
But then we received mail from Mr Dan Petschenig, Chairman of the Canadian Stebro SS Exhaust Company. From today's Stebro boss we learn that the company is indeed the very same that was "used" (Petschenig's words) by Broeker - the 'bro' in Stebro - to "finance his racing passion". So now we know Stebro was an exhaust company - the link with motor racing is obvious - but what were the cars under that name actually like? Quite ordinary actually, and the 1500cc engine rules of the early sixties helped in getting the regular Formula Junior Stebro eligible for F1 competition. The usual Stebro of the day was a sleek, low-line FJ machine conventionally built from a space frame and set on coil spring and double wishbone suspension at the front, with transverse link and twin radius arms at the rear. For the 1963 US GP the Ford 105E engine was beefed up to 1.5 litres and thus the Stebro F1 car was born.
Broeker entered two of them for the race at the Glen - one for himself and one for a certain Ernie de Vos. Surprisingly, one of them was accepted. This became more of a surprise - or a large disbelief with regard to the will of the organizers, whichever you like - when Broeker managed to ruin Saturday qualifying by depositing large amounts of oil on the track. Not only that, he qualified the Stebro dead last, a whopping 15 seconds off the pace. (Stunningly, he tailed Baghetti's hapless ATS by a mere 3.4 seconds, making the final ATS effort just a tiny bit less ridiculous. At least the Italians weren't in last place anymore!)
Broeker was used to being a tailender, however. In 1964, he took the next Stebro in line - the MkV, powered by a Cosworth MAE - to Europe to participate in the Old Continent's F2 championship but again he came to carry a red lantern. His name and that of his car first appeared on the entry list of the opening European F2 race at Pau but ultimately he was a no-show. In July, Broeker tried again at the F2 Reims GP. This time he managed to outpace some of the worst backmarkers but still decided that a withdrawal would be the best way to save face. The strange thing is, he didn't do that bad in France. In practice he was "just" 14 seconds slower than Brabham, his time beating that of 'Geki', Maggs, Rosinski and even Beltoise, who set an embarrassing 2.50.6 (3 seconds slower than Broeker) in his René Bonnet 01. And then there was Dutchman Klaas Twisk of the Tulip Stable (what's in a name?) who took more than three minutes to complete a lap of Reims-Gueux, while Gérard Lareau (Beltoise's team mate) was nearly a minute slower than Black Jack. Now why did Broeker consider his mount to be uncompetitive? Compared to Twisk and Lareau he could have done even worse!
In between, on April 12, he was an entrant for the Vienna GP. He managed to get into the event proper this time but that's all the good news. Compare his practice best of 1.46.0 at Vienna's Aspern aerodrome with Brabham's pole time of 1.12.0 and you'll get the picture. He finished the first heat 7 laps in arrears of winner Richard Attwood. Mind you, this heat of 30 laps was wrapped up by Dickie A in 37 minutes. Broeker covered just 23 laps in the same time, which meant he lost an average 24 seconds a lap - which is by the way consistent with his qualifying time.
Same story on May 24, when Broeker entered the Berlin GP at Avus, the Canadian qualifying the Stebro some 14 seconds off poleman Tony Hegbourne. At the blunt end of the grid the slow people were having a party with Günther Schramm in his Cooper T59 just 0.6 seconds faster than Broeker and Bill Bradley and Schramm's team mate Harald Limberger 5 and 17 seconds off Broeker respectively! Just how slow can you go? In the race Broeker finished the first heat in 13th place, unclassified, with 11 of the 15 laps covered. The second heat saw an improvement, PB finishing 11th with 13 laps. He must have learned the track by then...
Leaders flying past were no strange sensation to Broeker as he had this happening to him in his single Grand Prix start a few months before. At least he didn't take anybody off at the start - as he did with Jochen Rindt at the beginning of the second heat in Vienna! - but instead trundled round at the back at an alarmingly slow pace. The only Canadian F1 car ever built thus saw Graham Hill lap him every five tours. Now that would have meant coverage in the television age! If sponsorship would have caught on a few years earlier, Player's would have had a magnificent Canadian billboard. Ho-hum.
Reader's Why by Michael Ferner
Probably the strangest car ever to appear in a WC Grand Prix! Its name is probably a compound of the last names of someone called Stevens (I have to admit this is pure speculation) and Peter Broeker and its best claim to fame is the fact that it's the only Canadian car ever to appear in a WC event (the Wolf was actually built in Reading and the BAR in Brackley, both in the UK).
I am furthermore inclined to think that the manufacturer is identical to Stebro Exhaust Systems in Ontario, founded in 1956. This little firm, specialised in stainless steel exhausts for mainly Italian cars, is even present on the Web and I'm planning to investigate further. But what of its racing exploits? I'm afraid there isn't a lot I can dwell upon since even the specialist magazines of the time seem to have been taken by surprise by its appearance! The only thing of note that the Swiss Powerslide mentions is that it apparently took Broeker more than five minutes (sic!) to enter the car! It was thus perhaps lucky that he did not drive too fast since leaving it must have been an equally unpleasant experience which could have had rather worrying aspects in the case of an accident...
Be that as it may, Broeker even has the distinction to have led the new World Champion Jim Clark for five laps when the Scotsman was delayed at the start with a flat battery. Well, truth to be told Clark started more than a lap late and never caught up which means, of course, that when he passed the Stebro on lap 6 it was already lapped by the leaders. That was the tune of its performance and by the end of the 110-lap race it was no less than twenty-two laps in arrears! Since two thirds of the 21-car field had retired by then it was even classified seventh - wow! Its average speed over 2 hours and twenty minutes had been 86.388 mph compared to Graham Hill's winning average of 108.920, i.e. less than 80%!
In practice Broeker had been able to extract 93.453 mph out of the car, still only 82.8% of Hill's pole effort (112.806 mph), and apparently annoying everybody by coating the track in oil (besides being a continuous obstacle)!
He was described as a sports car and FJunior racer but the only result I was able to find was fourth in a rather obscure FJunior race in Meadowdale (Canada?) two months before the US GP, apparently driving the same car but, of course with an 1100cc 105E. That race was won by one Ernie de Vos at the wheel of a BT6 Brabham and this driver was actually entered for a second Stebro to appear at the Glen but, apparently it wasn't ready.
Incidentally, the designation Stebro "4" could either be a chassis or a type identification and possibly both at the same time! However, the following summer Broeker and a new car, Stebro "5" made a trip to good ole Europe trying to compete in several F2 races. He was still embarrassing slow, even after a change from Cosworth MAE to state-of-the-art SCA power and quietly disappeared after the Reims GP.