Tribute Tuesday – Bruce McLaren

Bruce McLaren was born in Auckland, New Zealand on the 30th August 1937. Growing up, a young Bruce spent endless hours at his parents workshop and this was where he was first introduced to engineering and opened the way for his infatuation with motorsport.

His first competition was a hillclimb which he competed in with an Austin 7 Ulster at the age of fourteen. Five years later, he was the runner up in the F2 Championship. He soon attracted the attention of the  New Zealand International Grand Prix Organisation who sent him to Europe for a year of motorsport. His first F1 race was the 1958 German Grand Prix in which he finished fifth, but could not score points as he was racing in an F2 car.

His first points finish was at the 1959 Monaco Grand Prix on May 10th, before scoring again at the next round in France and taking a podium finish with third at the British Grand Prix. He failed to finish the next three rounds, the German, Portuguese and Italian Grand Prix, before taking his maiden Formula One victory at the 1959 United States Grand Prix.

He won the season-opening 1960 Argentinian Grand Prix and finished the season second in the standings, ten points shy of World Champion Jack Brabham who won five of the Grand Prix. It was to be McLaren’s highest Championship finish. A poor year for the team in 1961 saw McLaren finish eighth overall before making a comeback of sorts in 1962 when McLaren won the Monaco Grand Prix for a second time before finishing the season in third behind Graham Hill and Jim Clark.

Failing to take a win, He finished 6th, 7th and 9th in the next three years with a slowly slipping Cooper team and in 1966 he debuted the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing team. He failed to finish two of the three races he entered in but finished fifth in the US round in ’66, finishing 16th in the Championship. In ’67, his only points finish was in Monaco when he crossed the line in fourth. He retired from the Dutch, Italian, Mexican and American rounds and finished seventh in Canada. His championship position in ’67 was 14th but he pulled himself up the order to fifth in ’68 including a win at the Belgian Grand Prix. It was last Bruce’s last win.

He came remarkably close to winning the Spanish GP in 1969, eventually finishing second. He also took to the podium in Britain and Germany aswell as scoring points in South Africa, Monaco, Italy and Canada and retiring only from the Dutch Grand Prix, although he failed to start the American and Mexican rounds. Overall, he took third in the Championship.

In 1970, Bruce dropped from the South African Grand Prix with an engine failure, finished second in Spain and retired in Monaco due to a suspension failure. It was his last race.

On June 2nd 1970, Bruce arrived at the Goodwood circuit for a test day. While testing an M8D, the rear body work broke loose, leaving McLaren’s car spinning out of control. The car left the track and hit a bunker which was used as a flag station. 32-year-old Bruce McLaren died instantly.

Although taken too soon, the team which shares his name and this year celebrating their 50th anniversary carry on the McLaren legacy. Posthumously, Bruce McLaren was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. The Bruce McLaren scholarship system was created in 2000 to help talented New Zealand racing drivers.

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