DRIVERS: BRUCE MCLAREN
Name: Bruce McLaren
Nationality: New Zealand
Date of birth: August 30, 1937 - Auckland
Date of death: June 2, 1970 - Goodwood
Bruce McLaren grew up in a racing-mad family but had a difficult childhood, having to overcome a rare disease which meant that as a child he could not walk for two years and was left with a permanent limp as a result. His father was a garage owner and when Bruce was 16 he was given an Austin 7. While he studied engineering, he competed in local events in his native New Zealand. By the time he was 20 he was racing Cooper-Climax sports and open-wheelers.
In 1958 he won the chance to go to Europe and raced Formula 2 with some success. As a result he was offered a Formula 1 drive with Cooper in 1959 alongside Jack Brabham. Brabham won the title that year but McLaren was also impressive and ended his first year with a victory in the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Sebring.
He started the 1960 season in similar style winning in Argentina but thereafter Brabham returned to his winning ways. With the change of F1 rules in 1961 the team was no longer competitive and when Brabham went off to start his own team in 1962 McLaren became the team leader. But by then Lotus and BRM were the teams to beat and McLaren won only the 1962 Monaco GP. He stayed with Cooper, without another win, until the end of 1965 but in the winter of 1964 established Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd and built up a pair of modified Cooper chassis for himself and Tim Mayer in the Tasman Series. Sadly Mayer was killed in an accident at Longford in Tasmania but McLaren won the Tasman title.
He then bought a Zerex sports car from Roger Penske, reworked it, fitted it with an Oldsmobile engine and began racing it in America. This led to a request from Firestone to develop tyres for single seaters and so McLaren then constructed his first open-wheeler and in 1966 followed up with the first McLaren F1 car, designed by Robin Herd. It was not an easy year but McLaren won the Le Mans 24 Hours in a Ford GT40.
In 1967 McLaren F1 raced with BRM engines but it was in CanAm where the team was really strong, beginning a dominant run that would last for four years. The team also added cars for USAC and Formula 2 but without much success. In 1968, however, the arrival of the Cosworth engine gave McLaren and his new team mate Denny Hulme the chance to win in F1 and they collected the team's first F1 victories in Belgium, Italy and Canada.
McLaren ended 1969 third in the Drivers' World Championship. Alas, in June 1970, he was killed while testing a McLaren CanAm car at Goodwood but his company lived on and today enjoys the reputation as one of the world's foremost racing teams.