Bruce McLaren: racing driver, race car designer and team founder.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1937, Bruce McLaren was involved with cars from a young age. He helped his father, Les McLaren, restore a 1929 Austin Ulster at age 13 and raced it two years later in the 750cc class at the Muriwai hill climb.
Making his Formula One debut in 1958, Bruce became the youngest driver to win a race at just 22 years of age, at the wheel of a Cooper in 1959. In 1962 Bruce came third in the world championship with one race win, a second and three thirds. In 1963 Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd was founded and entered Formula One in 1966 piloted by Bruce himself. He scored three points that season. In 1968 Bruce took McLaren’s first victory, winning the Belgian GP. His most successful year, when driving for his own team, was 1969 when he once again finished third in the championship.
As well as Formula One, McLaren enjoyed a successful foray in Can-Am (Canadian-American Challenge Cup), a sports car series. Bruce was champion twice, with Denny Hulme and Peter Revson also piloting the car to championships. It was while testing a Can-Am car, the M8D, at Goodwood that Bruce tragically lost his life, aged just 32. Rear bodywork lifted on the rear of his car and sent it into a spin and hit an embankment.
At the launch of this year’s MP4-28, a haunting video of Bruce’s ‘ghost’ visiting the crash scene was shown. It included many quotes from Bruce, including the following:
“To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one’s ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.”
He penned this in his book ‘From the Cockpit’ while recalling the death of Timmy Mayer, the younger brother of his business partner Teddy Mayer. For many this is regarded as an unofficial epitaph for Bruce. As an incredible tribute to him, his team ensured that two M8Ds were on the grid for the Can-Am championship just 12 days later and, with Dan Gurney and Denny Hulme behind the wheel, the team secured nine victories out of a possible ten.
What an incredible man and what an incredible legacy he left behind. McLaren as a team have had success across the board, winning the Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring, as well as in Formula One.
On day three of McLaren ’50 in 50′ we’ll be looking at the man who helped Bruce start McLaren, and led the team after Bruce’s death – Teddy Mayer.