Bruce measured life in achievement. A Grand Prix winning racing driver, pioneering race car designer and the founder of the most successful Formula 1 team in history, he achieved an astonishing amount in his tragically short 32 years.
“TO DO SOMETHING WELL IS SO WORTHWHILE THAT TO DIE TRYING TO DO IT BETTER CANNOT BE FOOLHARDY. IT WOULD BE A WASTE OF LIFE TO DO NOTHING WITH ONE’S ABILITY, FOR I FEEL THAT LIFE IS MEASURED IN ACHIEVEMENT, NOT IN YEARS ALONE.”
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Bruce McLaren’s earliest competitive driving experience came at the wheel of a modified 1929 Austin Ulster. Bought in bits by his father who had planned to restore the car and sell it, 13-year-old Bruce convinced him they could turn it into a race car.
Involved in every stage of the Ulster’s restoration, the experience proved vital for the future race car designer. Two years later, in his race-prepared Ulster, 15-year-old Bruce set the fastest time in the 750cc class at the Muriwai Beach hill climb.
A DECADE OF SUCCESS
Seven years later, aged just 22, Bruce won his first Grand Prix. At the time he was the youngest-ever Grand Prix winner – a record that stood for over 40 years. The following year, he won the Argentinian Grand Prix and finished second in the Drivers’ Championship behind Jack Brabham.
For the next decade, Bruce McLaren remained one of the best drivers in the world. His popularity and enthusiasm for racing never diminished. What did change, however, was his ever-increasing influence over the world of motor racing.
Bruce McLaren’s vision extended far beyond the driver's seat. Engineer, designer, inventor, tester, Bruce was an automotive genius. He is one of only two men ever to win a Grand Prix in a racing car bearing his name. The motor racing company he started went on to become the most successful marque in Formula 1 history.
The success of McLaren’s race cars went beyond Formula 1™. There were victories in the Indianapolis 500 in 1972, 74 and 76. McLarens driven by Bruce and Denny Hulme also dominated the Can-Am series, winning five consecutive Constructors’ Championships between 1967 and 71.
TRAGEDY AT GOODWOOD
During a test run at Goodwood on 2nd June 1970, the tail section on Bruce’s M8D lifted at 170mph. Spinning off the track, the car hit a protective embankment. Bruce was thrown from the wreckage and tragically lost his life. He was 32.
The team were told not to come to work the next day. Racers to their core, every one of the team turned up for work, and just 12 days later two McLaren M8Ds were on the grid for the start of the Can-Am series.
Dan Gurney was drafted in to replace Bruce. Despite having never driven the car before, Dan won the race. Denny Hulme, with bandaged hands after a fire in Indianapolis, finished third. In a glorious tribute to Bruce’s racing philosophy, the McLaren team won nine out of ten races that year.