Bruce Leslie McLaren

Do you want to post a tribute about your favourite retired drivers, perhaps you want to discuss the rantings of the MIT (men in tweed). They thought they were safer when they retired, perhaps not mumblers!! How about a tribute to those that are not drivers but still in the game?

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Bruce Leslie McLaren

Postby St. Mackem of Kansas » Mon 01 Jan, 2007 9:18 pm

Bruce Leslie McLaren

1937 - 1970

Can-Am Champion: 1967 & 1969
Winner: First United States Grand Prix (Sebring, 1959)
Winner: 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours (with Amon)
Winner: 1967 Sebring 12 Hours (with Andretti)

Born to Les & Ruth on 30th August 1937 at Auckland, New Zealand., I was the second child in the family. Dad had invested in a Service Station in Remuera late 1936, after driving petrol tankers for the Texaco/Caltex Oil Co. My younger years were spent learning to broadside around shop corners on two wheels of my tricycle becoming a pest, borrowing mechanics spanners, etc. just when they needed them to repair my "racing machine".

We moved to 8 Upland Road approximately 1946 and it was there that we found that owing to a fall I had developed Perthes Disease (a hip joint problem), so I left Meadowbank School and spent the next two years in the Wilson Home in Takapuna on a Bradford Frame - (had many unofficial races there (see "From The Cockpit"). My family came across on the Vehicular Ferry every weekend from the city. Dad used to say "I have just about brought this Ferry boat" then at the end of 1949 I was allowed to go home on crutches, it was nice to be there with Mum and Dad - my older sister Pat and younger sister Jan. I started correspondence school with a tutor and then in 1951 had my first year at Seddon Technical Memorial College - doing an Engineering Course - by now I had discarded my walking sticks for good.

Motor Racing was in my blood - my Father had always shown great achievements in his Motor Cycle Racing days and now was becoming very interested in Motor Car Racing, eventually with a truck full of boxes of spare parts and towing the "Austin Ulster" arrived at 8 Upland Road, my motor racing career had started. How Mum put up with Dad and me with her kitchen table covered in bits and pieces of the engine during meals I will never know. She used to say "If I gave them dry bread and water they wouldn't have noticed".

As soon as the Austin was driveable I carved out a figure 8 around the fruit trees in the back of our section - when I turned 15 and was able to obtain a driving licence - my early and wonderful days of local hill climbs - Gymkhana’s - Sprint meetings etc. had begun. My lucky break came when I was allowed to race Dad’s Austin Healey at Ardmore then I graduated to a Bob Tail Cooper - then my "God Father" Jack Brabham came onto the scene - I was selected as "Driver to Europe" by NZIGP Association and my next two years at University studies were put on hold and a new life had started for me. I left NZ on March 15th 1958 for England with my good friend and mechanic Colin Beanland and my first year driving for John Cooper of Cooper Cars as his "new boy", (see "From The Cockpit"). Returned to Auckland for Xmas and Motor Racing as No. 2 for Coopers - then back to England & Europe coming home again late 1959 for another season of Motor Racing and catching up with family members. At this stage I was beginning to feel that our family members might increase as I was becoming very interested in a Timaru girl, Patricia Broad whom I had met at my sisters and then again at a dance and to whom I became engaged and married to on December 9th 1961.

By now Motor Racing had become my life with all its potential’s which I would explore and also be aware of its constant dangers - I returned to NZ as often as I could to catch up with Mum & Dad, Pat and her husband John Hunter and their five children - Pat lived in the South Island so it was a good stopover point - managed to squeeze in some Wallaby hunting, Water Skiing (one ski only owing to earlier hip problem), and some rowing - My younger sister Jan was still at home with Mum & Dad in these years.

In 1965 I decided to invest in a Service Station - just like Dad - so purchased one at Te Atatu, a western suburb of Auckland - and called it Bruce McLaren Motors - Pat and John returned from down South in 1967 and managed this for me till 1977 when my friend Phil Kerr returned to NZ and helped with enlarging the premises and management.

Wonderful News - my daughter Amanda was born on November 20th 1965 - so we now required a bigger house. Patty and I found just what we needed - bought same then called it "Muriwai" in memory of my happy days as a child, watching Dad race his cars on the black sands of the beach at low tide and my own early days of doing the hill climbs in the Austin Ulster on the Quarry Road, that was where my motor racing days started. One day I had hoped to return home and have my own beach house there - as you know this was not to be.

My last trip to Auckland, NZ was the 1968 season. My parents had moved to Te Atatu South - so Dad could keep an eye on my business - and be nearer to his fishing grounds - he was an expert surf caster for beach fishing.

My last race in NZ was at the Teretonga circuit (South Island) on 28th January 1968 where I came 1st driving a McLaren M5A V12 B.R.M finishing just ahead of Jimmy Clark.

Mid 1969 Dad "Pop" & Mum returned for another visit to England and America - the last time they were with me here in England and the Continent was in 1959 - I was able to make this trip very special - to repay them for all they had done in the early days - we were not to know it would be our last time together.

At this point one can only say "That’s Motor Racing"

- Bruce Leslie McLaren died 2nd June 1970 while testing a Can Am Car at Goodwood

(from the Bruce McLaren trust)

Bruce Leslie McLaren (born August 30, 1937– died June 2, 1970), born in Auckland, New Zealand, was a race-car designer, driver, engineer and inventor.

His name lives on in Team McLaren which has been one of the most successful in Formula One championship history, with McLaren cars and drivers winning a total of 19 world championships. McLaren cars totally dominated CanAm sports car racing with 56 wins, a considerable number of them with him behind the wheel, between 1967 and 1972 (and five constructors’ championships), and have won three Indianapolis 500 races, as well as 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring.

As a nine year old, McLaren contracted a disease in his hip which left his left leg shorter than the right. He spent two years in traction, but later often had a slight limp.

Les and Ruth McLaren, his parents, owned a service station and workshop in Remuera, Auckland. Bruce spent all of his free hours hanging around the workshop.

Les McLaren restored an aging Austin 7 Ulster which 14-year-old Bruce used in 1952 when he entered his first competition, a hillclimb. Two years later he took part in his first real race and showed promise. He moved up from the Austin to a Ford 10 special and a Austin-Healey, then a F2 Cooper-Climax sports. He immediately began to modify and improve it—and master it—so much so that he was runner-up in the 1957–8 New Zealand championship series.

His performance in the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1958 was noted by great Australian driver Jack Brabham (who would later invite McLaren to drive for him). Because of his obvious potential the New Zealand International Grand Prix organisation selected him for its ‘Driver in Europe’ scheme designed to give a promising Kiwi driver year-round experience with the best in the world. McLaren was the first recipient and Denis Hulme was another later.

McLaren went to Cooper and stayed seven years. He raced in F2 and was entered in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in which F2 and F1 cars competed together. He astounded the motor racing fraternity by being first F2, and fifth overall, in a field of the best drivers in the world.

McLaren joined the Cooper factory F1 team alongside Jack Brabham in 1959 and won the 1959 United States Grand Prix at age 22 years 104 days, becoming the youngest ever GP winner up to that time. He followed that with a win in the Argentina Grand Prix, the first race of the 1960 Fomula One season. (Forty three years later, another Kiwi racer, Scott Dixon, would become the youngest ever winner in any major open-wheel racing formula anywhere in the world when he won the CART Lehigh Valley GP in the US when 20 years, 9 months and 14 days old.)

McLaren won the Monaco Grand Prix in 1962. The next year he founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd, which remains in the Formula One championship simply as Team McLaren. McLaren continued to race and win in Coopers (including the New Zealand GP in 1964).

McLaren left Cooper at the end of 1965, and announced his own GP racing team, with co-driver and fellow Kiwi Chris Amon. Amon left in 1967 to drive for Ferrari. In 1968, McLaren was joined by fellow Kiwi Denis Hulme, who had become world champion in 1967. McLaren won his first GP in his own McLaren car at Spa in 1968 and Hulme won twice in the McLaren-Ford. In tribute to his homeland, McLaren's cars featured the "speedy Kiwi" logo.

It was in powerful sports car racing where McLaren's design flair and ingenuity were graphically demonstrated. Just as the CanAm Series began to become very popular with fans in Canada and the U.S., the new McLaren cars finished second twice, and third twice, in six races.

In 1967 they won five of six races and in 1968, four of six. The following year McLaren’s proved unbeatable, winning 11 of 11 races. In one race, they finished 1-2-3. (McLaren, Hulme and Dan Gurney).

In 1966 he and co-driver Chris Amon won the prestigious 24 Hour race at Le Mans in a GT40

F1 Formula 1 IRL Champ Cars
St. Mackem of Kansas
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