Forty years ago formula car racing was just beginning to become the major series in Canada that it would shortly grow into. Sports car racing, featuring sports racing cars had been the main racing with the pro events, highlighted latterly by the Can-Am. Outside of a couple of USAC races there had been no major open wheel race in Canada until the Cdn. GP in 1967. CASC decided that as of 69 the Cdn. Championship would be for formula cars. The first year of the series sponsored by Gulf Oil had been less than brilliant with low car counts and even Formula Fords in the top three on occasion. By 1970 there were quite a few FB cars and a few more 5000 cars so the fields were reasonable. Enhancing this was a Molson sponsored series in Quebec for FB cars with some money.
I had started crewing for Bruce Jensen late in 69 when he had aquired a old BT16 Brabham with a Twin Cam Lotus Ford. It was sometimes entered as a more modern BT18 in pro race like Sebring. By 1970 a more modern but still old and well used Brabham BT21 with a Vegantune TC had been aquired. The nickname for the Vegantune motors was Vaguely Tuned but they were in fact pretty good. When it blew late in the year a BRM twin cam was purchased. AKA :Barely Running Motor. I think it had less power than a stock Lotus! Bruce in those days was racing on a shoestring and had not developed into the very quick driver he was in the mid 70’s. We did not run the full Gulf Series but did race in the Quebec Series quite often at St. Jovite. Good track, good food and many good times.
At one of the early races we were parked beside a Quebec driver, Eligio Siginolfi who had a Lotus 41. He seemed like a nice guy and we shot the breeze quite a bit. He did have a quiet male companion who kept his jacket on and never touched the car. The Lotus 41 was a pretty car but not one of Chapman’s best efforts. I believe it was Piers Courage, the F1 driver, who said the front end did not talk to the back end. It was pretty diabolical in tight corners but not bad in fast ones where it would take a set and keep it.
The next time we raced at St. Jovite, Eligio was carless but accompanied by his companion and a Plainclothes Sergeant of the Quebec Provincial Police.
It seems his Lotus, trailer and tow vehicle had been stolen and they were checking the engines in all the twin cam powered cars. They had no luck. He was quite pleasant to us but there were definetely words with a few teams. Stealing of race rigs in PQ is now unfortunately all too common but back then it was new.
In our team and a couple of others we knew well there was some joking about it as Eligio had a bit of a reputation relating to his name.
Nothing more was heard for a few years and then a story circulated like wildfire in the racing community. There was no internet or cell phones in those far off days but the racing hotline was pretty darned quick. The Lotus, tow vehicle and trailer had been discovered and recovered from the Lac Deux Montages (Lake of Two Mountains) just outside Montreal proper. Also, so the story goes, were two rather dead gentlemen in the front of the tow vehicle with an extra orifice in their foreheads. It appears they had messed with the property of the wrong Italian Gentleman.
I understand the Lotus is currently being restored and the current owner may wish to add to this story.
Ed note: above photo of the F A/B race in 1970 courtesy of OldRacingCars.com