Former Grand Prix racer Héctor Rebaque will be celebrating his birthday today; the Mexican driver will be turning 56 years old today!
Until Sergio Pérez entered the Formula 1 scene, Héctor held the mantle of Mexico’s last F1 driver, contesting nearly 60 Grands Prix, earning 13 championship points in a career spanning 1977 to 1981.
An ambitious young Mexican from a wealthy family, Héctor travelled to Europe in 1974 hoping to get noticed a fast-track a career in Formula 1. He bought himself a drive in Formula Atlantic and later in Formula 2 before he returned to North America at the end of 1976.
He bought himself a seat at Hesketh midway through 1977, but only made the grid just once in six attempts, concluding that he would be better off if he had more competitive equipment at his disposal.
So, in 1978 he set up his own team and purchased an ex-works Lotus 78. While he was able to qualify with slightly more frequency, the performance still wasn’t there, although the highlight was a point for sixth in Germany.
For 1979, he obtained a Lotus 79 but became increasingly frustrated at the lack of factory support. Instead, he commissioned Penske to design him a bespoke car – modelled on the Lotus 79 and the Williams FW07 – which was ready for the final three rounds of the season.
While no doubt a brave decision, it was not the brightest either, for he failed to either qualify or finish for each of the races before the team was shut down at the end of the season. To-date, his outfit remains the only F1 team to run under a Mexican license.
Without a drive for 1980, he sat out the first half of the season until Brabham came knocking, in need of a driver to replace Ricardo Zunino. With some decent equipment underneath him, this was Rebaque’s chance to prove his worth, and he showed relatively good form for the rest of 1980 and the first half of 1981.
Bad luck certainly played its part too, such as at the 1981 Argentine Grand Prix when he ran in an incredible second place until a rotor arm broke.
Without a drive for 1982, Rebaque moved to IndyCars with Forsythe Racing. He luckily won what would turn out to be his final CART race – the first ever to be held at Elkhart Lake – when many of the leaders ran out of fuel. But the following week he had a nasty practice crash at Michigan and developed an acute aversion to oval racing, and decided to retire.
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