The Eppie Wietzes F5000 Championship-winning McLaren M-10B
By Kevin Triplett | Photos by Dennis Gray
From his earliest days as car designer and builder, Bruce McLaren understood that success of his designs on the race track lead to opportunities to sell customer cars. Bruce’s interests lie in developing new cars, not running a production operation, so Bruce formed a partnership with Trojan Cars. Trojan first came to prominence in the early 1960’s as builders of the Elva sports racing cars in their South London shops. Trojan and Bruce McLaren began their partnership in 1964 when Trojan built 24 copies of the McLaren M1A sports racing car, with the the production versions known as the McLaren-Elva Mark 1. Over fifty copies of the subsequent M1B and C design improvements were sold as the Elva Mark 2 and Mark 3. The first customer cars sold built by Trojan under the McLaren name were the McLaren M6B Can-Am sports cars.
With 1968 announcement that the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) would apply its successful Can-Am stock-block American V-8 power recipe to the Formula A cars to create the F5000 series, McLaren and Trojan saw an opportunity to sell more customer cars. McLaren enlisted designer Gordon Coppuck to modify the McLaren M7 Formula 1 car to the 1969 F5000 rules, and Trojan built 17 customer cars. In the 1969 SCCA Continental Series, McLaren M10A’s won two races and scored 11 top ten finishes in a 14-race season, and Peter Gethin captured the British F5000 championship driving a works-supported McLaren M10A.
Following the success of the 1969 McLaren M10A, the McLaren M10B chassis design became one of the most popular in F5000 competition, as Trojan delivered 21 customer cars. The McLaren M10B captured the L & M Continental Series championship for John Cannon and his car owners Malcolm Starr and Carl Hogan with three wins, and Peter Gethin captured a second straight Guards Championship in his works M10B.
For 1971, McLaren introduced the McLaren M18, and Trojan built eight new cars. Most teams elected to continue with their M10B’s, and the results of the M18 were disappointing when compared to the M10B. In 1971, David Hobbs won the 1971 L & M championship in the Hogan-Starr M10B, and Graham McRae captured the first of his three Tasman Series championships driving a McLaren M10B.
The 1972 McLaren F5000 design known as the M22 but only three were built and it was not much of improvement. The final McLaren F5000 design, a modification of the M23 1974 Formula 1 world championship design, was designated as the 1975 M25, but no cars were built. By this time, all the F5000 series worldwide were on the decline.
Eppie Wietzes was born in Holland in 1938 but raised in Canada, where he started racing in 1958 mainly in sports racing cars. Eppie suffered serious leg injuries in his first race in 1964 and he sat out the rest of that season. Despite that setback, Eppie steadily advanced up the road-racing ladder, and eventually drove Ford GT40 for Comstock Racing through 1966 and 1967 at the major North American road races. In 1967, Eppie rented a ride from Team Lotus for the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport. Unfortunately, Jimmy Clark crashed his Lotus in practice, took over Eppie’s machine, and grabbed the pole position. Wietzes struggled with the repaired Clark machine throughout qualifying and the rainy race – he was disqualified after he received a push during the event. In 1969, Eppie captured the nine-race Canadian Road Racing Championship for Formula A/5000 machines with five victories driving a Lola T142 fitted with a high rear wing.