Bruce McLaren was a New Zealand racing car driver, designer, engineer, and inventor. He founded the McLaren team, one of the most successful in Formula One history. He also dominated the CanAm sports car racing series and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He died on June 2, 1970, at the age of 32, in a crash while testing an experimental car of his own design at the Goodwood Circuit in England.
A Passion for Speed and Innovation
Bruce McLaren was born on August 30, 1937, in Auckland, New Zealand. He suffered from a childhood hip disease that left his left leg shorter than the right, but he did not let that stop him from pursuing his dream of racing. He started with an Austin 7 Ulster at the age of 14, and progressed to a Ford 10 special, an Austin-Healey, and a Formula Two Cooper-Climax. He caught the attention of Australian driver Jack Brabham, who invited him to join his team in Europe.
McLaren made his Formula One debut in 1958, at the age of 20, becoming the youngest driver at the time. He won his first race in 1959, at the United States Grand Prix, and finished second in the championship behind Brabham. He stayed with the Cooper team until 1965, winning three more races and becoming one of the top drivers in the sport. He also competed in other categories, such as sports cars, endurance racing, and the Indianapolis 500.
In 1963, McLaren founded his own team, McLaren Automotive, with the aim of designing and building his own cars. He hired talented engineers and mechanics, and developed innovative solutions to improve the performance and reliability of his machines. He also drove his own creations, winning the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans with fellow Kiwi Chris Amon, and dominating the CanAm series with 22 wins between 1967 and 1971. He also continued to race in Formula One, scoring his last win in 1968, at the Belgian Grand Prix.
A Fatal Accident
On June 2, 1970, McLaren was testing a new car, the M8D, at the Goodwood Circuit in England. The car was designed for the CanAm series, and featured a powerful Chevrolet V8 engine and a large rear wing. McLaren was doing a series of laps to check the aerodynamics and handling of the car, when something went wrong. According to witnesses, the rear bodywork of the car came loose at high speed, causing the car to lose downforce and veer off the track. The car hit a concrete bunker and burst into flames. McLaren was thrown out of the cockpit and died instantly.
The cause of the accident was later determined to be a faulty fastener that failed to secure the rear bodywork. The team was devastated by the loss of their leader and friend, but decided to continue racing in his honor. They dedicated the rest of the season to McLaren, and won nine out of the ten races in the CanAm series, with Denny Hulme and Peter Gethin driving the M8D. The team also carried on in Formula One, eventually becoming one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport, with 12 drivers’ championships and eight constructors’ championships.
A Legacy of Excellence and Inspiration
Bruce McLaren cause of death was a shock and a tragedy to the racing world. He was one of the most talented and respected drivers and designers of his era, and a pioneer of the sport. He left behind a legacy of excellence and inspiration that lives on in the McLaren team, and in the hearts of his fans and admirers. He was a racing legend who lived a remarkable life. He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.