- March 05, 1940
- New Zealand
- Not Active
Graham McRae is a former racing driver and race car constructor from New Zealand whose golden period was during the 1970s when he won five championship titles in different F5000 competitions in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
McRae also recorded short excursions to Formula One World Championship and USAC National Championship in 1973, participating at British Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 that year. He retired in both races.
Graham Peter McRae was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in March 1940. He became a qualified engineer before starting his racing career in the early 1960s, participating in local sports car races and hill climbs.
On the national level, his first competition was the 1.5 Litre Championship in 1967. He was driving an old Brabham BT2. With that car, he entered few rounds of the 1968 Tasman Series and then constructed his own McRae S2 race car for the 1968/1969 season of the National 1.5 Litre Championship, capturing the championship title.
In 1969, he was using McRae S2 in the Tasman Series but the next great success came in the 1969/1970 season of the New Zealand Gold Star Championship in which he won five of nine races to secure a championship title.
In 1970, McRae had a wide schedule of races in different competitions, driving mostly a McLaren M10B (Chevrolet) in F5000-spec championships. He finished sixth in the European F5000 Championship and fifth in Tasman Series.
McRae also made two starts in Formula 1 non-championship races with McLaren F5000-spec car. He raced at BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone in April and at International Gold Cup at Oulton Park in August.
McRae became the Tasman Series champion for the first time in 1971, winning three races in a McLaren M10B (Chevrolet). In 1972, he built a new car together with a designer Len Terry, naming it a Leda. It was his championship-winning car in the 1972 Tasman Series.
As from July 1972, the Leda had been renamed to McRae GM1. Driving that car, GrahamMcRae captured the third consecutive Tasman Series title in 1973.
Winning races in Tasman Series, which had its base in Australia and New Zealand, was just one part of McRae's success. In 1972, he became a champion in North American SCCA L&M Continental 5000 Championship, winning three rounds in a Leda/McRae GM1 car.
In the same year, he won five races and finished third in the European F5000 Championship, behind Gijs van Lennep and Brian Redman. In April 1972, McRae was the fastest F5000 driver in the BRDC International Trophy behind six drivers with F1 machines.
In 1973, besides racing in F5000 championships in Australia/New Zealand, USA and Europe, McRae decided to compare his skills with world's best drivers at Indianapolis 500 and in one race of the F1 World Championship.
In May, he was driving the #60 STP Gas Treatment Eagle-Offenhauser at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the greatest American race, finishing the race after 91 due to mechanical issues. He was classified 16th and the best among rookies.
In July, McRae entered F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in Frank Williams Racing's #26 Iro-Marlboro IR. The race was marked by the first-lap pile-up which eliminated eleven cars. McRae retired on the same lap due to a separate incident.
In the following years, McRae continued to build race cars and compete in F5000 championships all over the world. He also competed in the Can-Am Challenge.
The next great success came in 1978 when he won the Australian Drivers' Championship which was opened to F1 and F5000 cars so we can tell that he was the Australian F1 champion. He was driving a McRae GM3-Chevrolet, winning an Australian Grand Prix at Sandown and two-heat round at Calder Park.
Graham McRae was active in racing until 1987, recording many races with his own cars in different open-wheel competitions but also driving for other teams in touring car races, including his debut at Bathurst 1000 in 1979. He finished in the eleventh place at 1986 Bathurst 1000, sharing a Volvo 240T with John Bowe and Neville Crichton.
McRae also recorded few more Indy Car World Series participations. In 1984, he was driving for Pace Racing in two events. In 1987, he joined Arciero Racing and NFW Racing in three events.
McRae was building his cars through the McRae Cars Ltd, set up in the UK in 1972. In 2000, he set up New Zealand-based firm but he stopped to work due to illness in 2003.