Eppie Wietzes is a former racing driver who was born in the Netherlands but competed for Canada. He was Canadian Road Racing champion two times, in 1969 and 1970, but also the Trans-Am Series champion in 1981. He recorded two starts in the Formula One World Championship, both times at Canadian Grand Prix, in 1967 and 1974.
Wietzes is also remembered as a driver of the first ever Safety car in Formula One, during the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix.
Variety of race cars early in a career
Egbert 'Eppie' Wietzes was born in May 1938 in Assen, Netherlands. When he was 12, he emigrated with his family to Canada and later took Canadian citizenship. Wietzes started a racing career in the sports car races in the late 1950s, driving a Morris Minor Special. In the early 1960s, he raced in a Sunbeam Alpine. His next race car was an AC Cobra.
In 1965, Wietzes raced in a Shelby GT350 which brings him one of the greatest successes of early career, a victory at 6 Hours of Mosport, together with Craig Fisher. In March 1966, Wietzes and Fisher raced with Comstock Racing Team's Ford GT40 in many sports car races, including a debut at Sebring 12 Hours. In 1967, Wietzes continued to race in a Ford GT40 in national events and Can-Am Challenge but the highlight of the season was his Formula 1 attempt.
Eppie Wietzes at 1967 Canadian Grand Prix
Formula One debut at 1967 Canadian Grand Prix
In August 1967, Wietzes entered the inaugural Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport. He was driving the #5 Lotus 49 for Comstock Racing.
After starting 16th in the grid, he raced for 69 laps before ignition failure stopped him. He then received outside assistance and because of that, he was disqualified.
Canadian road racing champion in 1969 and 1970
Wietzes was out of racing in 1968 and then returned to full-time programme in the 1969 Canadian Road Racing Championship, driving a Lola T142-Chevrolet Formula 5000 car. He was a race winner five times and captured his first championship title in a career. He also raced in the US F5000 Championship but without notable results.
In 1970, Wietzes continued with F5000 commitments in the US and Canada, taking one more championship title. This time, his victorious car was a McLaren M10B-Chevrolet. Wietzes competed in the US F5000 Championship for five more years, until 1975, scoring numerous podiums but no wins.
Eppie Wietzes in a Lola F5000 car in 1972
The driver of the first ever Safety car
In 1973, Wietzes participated in the F1 Canadian Grand Prix but not as a racer but as a driver of the first ever recorded Safety car.
It was a Porsche 914 which he was driving around Mosport Park when the race was interrupted by Francois Cevert's and Jody Scheckter's collision. Wietzes came out in a Porsche in front of the wrong car, causing some controversy about the race winner.
One more Formula 1 attempt in 1974
As a driver, Wietzes recorded one more Formula One attempt in 1974. He rented a Brabham BT42-Cosworth for the Canadian Grand Prix and raced under the banner of Team Canada F1 Racing. He was 26th on the starting grid, retiring from the race after 33 laps with a broken engine.
Eppie Wietzes in 1975
Trans-Am Series champion in 1981
Following 1975 SCCA/USAC F5000 season, Wietzes slowed down his racing activities and participated just occasionally in sports car races. Then, in 1981, he blistered in the Trans-Am Series, winning two races in the #94 Chevrolet Corvette and capturing the championship title. In nine races, he was on a podium seven times.
In August 1981, he also reached a podium at Mosport 6 Hours, finishing second in a Lola T600-Chevrolet, sharing a car with Brian Redman. With that car, he also raced at Daytona 24 Hours in January 1982, not finishing the race.
Eppie Wietzes in 1985
Retiring from racing at the end of 1987
The Trans-Am Series was Eppie's main competition in following years, until the end of 1987, when he retired from racing. He never repeated a success from 1981 Trans-Am season, scoring only several podiums in a Pontiac Firebird or Chevrolet Camaro.
He also appeared in some sports car endurance races, such as Daytona 24h or Sebring 12h, but without any success.
In 1993, Eppie Wietzes was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.