Bruce McLaren was a man of many talents. Born in 1937 in New Zealand, he was not only a racing driver but also a racecar designer and engineer.
His racing career started when he was 14 years old. He won the 1959 U.S. Grand Prix at the age of 22 years and 80 days, becoming the youngest driver at the time to win a Formula 1 race. In 1963, he founded his own team, named Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd., but continued to race for Cooper.
He quit in 1965 and announced that he would enter F1 next year with his own team. In 1966 he won the 24 Hour of Le Mans along with Chris Amon in a Ford GT40 and, two years later, gave his team its maiden F1 win at Spa.
McLaren cars were dominant in the Can-Am series from 1967-1969. Sadly, he would perish behind the wheel of the M8D that he was testing at Goodwood when the rear bodywork was detached at speed. The M8D spun and hit a bunker. Bruce McLaren died on the spot. The date was June 2, 1970 and he was just 32 years old.
In spite of that, his name lived on and became one of the dominant forces in motor racing in the guise of the McLaren Racing Team.
Bruce McLaren was also a writer: in 1964 he wrote a book titled From the Cockpit.
The book contains some truly beautiful words about the death of his team mate Timmy Mayer at the final race of the 1964 Tasman Series that, a few years later, could be used as his own epitaph, too:
“The news that he had died instantly was a terrible shock to all of us, but who is to say that he had not seen more, done more and learned more in his few years than many people do in a lifetime?
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.”
Since 2013 marks the 50th anniversary since McLaren was founded, the company released a video directed by Swede Marcus Soderlund, in which a young man in period racing overalls and helmet, supposedly the “ghost” of Bruce McLaren, retraces the scene of the accident that claimed his life.
This video, which you can see right after the break, is titled “Courage” and is the first in a trilogy of short films about McLaren’s anniversary.
P.S.: On a personal note, I admit that the words about life being measured not in years alone but in achievement, too, struck a chord close to my heart. At the same time I can’t help but wonder if McLaren’s people realize the irony of celebrating an anniversary (that is, time) or what Bruce McLaren would make of the way his premature demise is used to promote the company he founded…
By Andrew Tsaousis