- August 30, 1937
- June 02, 1970
- New Zealand
- Not Active
Bruce McLaren was a race driver from New Zealand who was active in Formula One in the late 1950s and during the 1960s, but his name became one of the most recognizable ones over the years in the world of motorsport through his eponymous Formula 1 team.
Bruce Leslie McLaren was born on 30th of August, 1937, in Auckland, New Zealand. Bruce's father Les owned a service station and workshop, so young Bruce spent all of his free time hanging around the workshop, developing his passion for cars and racing. 15-year old Bruce used his father's restored Austin Seven Ulster to compete in his first hillclimb race. In the years after that, he changed a few cars and progressed to F2 Cooper-Climax singleseater in 1958.
His performance in the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1958 was noted by the Australian driver Jack Brabham, and the New Zealand International Grand Prix organisation selected him as a recipient of the 'Driver to Europe' programme, designed to give a promising Kiwi driver the experience of racing with the best drivers in the world. In August 1958, McLaren competed in the F1 German Grand Prix, although with his Cooper-Climax F2 car, so he wasn't eligible to score points. F1 and F2 cars raced together and McLaren surprisingly finished 5th, the best place among F2 drivers. With the same car, he competed in the Moroccan Grand Prix in Casablanca and finished 13th.
In 1959, McLaren joined the Cooper factory F1 team, together with Jack Brabham. At the US Grand Prix at Sebring, he scored his first F1 victory at the age of 22, thereby becoming the youngest ever GP winner of that time. He finished the championship at 6th place. 1960 was his most successful season in Formula One. The season started with a victorious Argentine Grand Prix. With five more podiums, Bruce McLaren finished as runner-up, behind team-mate Jack Brabham, who won the 2nd of his three F1 titles.
1961 was less successful, with no victories. McLaren's third F1 victory came during the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix. With four more podiums, he finished third in the championship that year, behind Graham Hill and Jim Clark.
In 1963, he founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd, but continued to race with Cooper for three more seasons. McLaren's private team was established for racing in the Australasian Tasman Series, in which Bruce was the 1964 champion. McLaren left Cooper at the end of 1965 and announced his own GP racing team, with co-driver and fellow Kiwi Chris Amon.
In 1968, he was joined by another New Zealander Denny Hulme, who was also the reigning world champion from 1967. In 1968, Bruce McLaren finally scored the first victory with his own automobile. Driving a McLaren M7A (Ford), he was the fastest at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. The 1969 championship was also a success, with Bruce McLaren finishing third in the standings despite taking no wins.
In 1970, Bruce McLaren scored a podium finish at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama and retired from the South African GP and Monaco GP. The race in Monte-Carlo was his last F1 race; he was killed three weeks after that (June 2nd) in a crash at the Goodwood Circuit. He was testing his new Can-Am car, the M8D, when he lost control of the car and spun. The car left the track and hit a bunker used as a flag station.
He lost his life in a Can-Am car, preparing for a racing series in which McLaren Motor Racing was more successful than in F1. In 1967, Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme won five of six Can-Am races, with McLaren becoming the champion. In 1968, they won four of six races; Hulme was the champion and McLaren was second. In 1969, the McLarens were unbeatable, winning all 11 races and Bruce was the champion again. In 1970, Denny Hulme was the Can-Am champion with M8D, the car in which Bruce McLaren lost his life.
Apart from F1 and Can-Am, Bruce McLaren was a regular contestant at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He competed eight times and won once – in 1966 with a Ford GT40 together with Chris Amon.
In the first six attempts with Cooper, Maserati, Aston Martin and Ford GT40, he didn't finish the race, and finally in 1966, he scored a victory. On the list of his victories in famous races, Bruce McLaren also had three Indianapolis 500 races and 12 Hours of Sebring.
This is a story about Bruce the racer, who participated in 100 GP races and won four of them. What about Bruce the constructor and team owner? In five F1 seasons in which he drove the cars with his name on it, Bruce McLaren showed great abilities as manager, analyst, designer and engineer. He was confronted with hard challenges of being the owner of a private F1 team, but the fact that he was also a driver helped him as he built upon the experience, which resulted in better cars.
In 1966, he started with Ford's engine but in the same year he switched to Serenissima V8. In 1967, his F1 cars used BRM V8, Weslake V12 and BRM V12 engines. In 1968, he finally came into a long-standing agreement with Cosworth and got the engine capable for his first F1 victory and second place in the championship standings.
Bruce McLaren scored one win with his car, Denny Hulme scored three more, but that's just the beginning of another story about the team with a whopping total of 182 victories, 12 drivers' titles and 8 constructors' championships, the team which holds the glory of McLaren's name for many years after his untimely death.