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This week’s keen individual who inspires and surprises spent years of his childhood in the Wilson Home for Crippled Children after being diagnosed, at the age of nine, with Perthes disease in his hip that left his left leg shorter than the right. But that was no impediment to Bruce McLaren.

Bruce spent all of his free hours hanging around his father’s workshop in Remuera Road, Auckland, and developed his passion for cars and speed during his formative years.

At just 14, Bruce used an old, restored, Austin 7 Ulster when he entered his first competition in 1952, a hill climb. Quote.

Two years later, he took part in his first real race and showed promise. He moved up from the Austin to a Ford 10 special and an Austin-Healey, then an F2 Cooper-Climax sports. He immediately began to modify and improve ? and master ? it, so much so that he was runner-up in the 1957?8 New Zealand championship series.

His performance in the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1958 was noticed by Australian driver Jack Brabham (who would later invite McLaren to drive for him). Because of his obvious potential the New Zealand International Grand Prix organisation selected him for its ‘Driver to Europe’ scheme designed to give a promising Kiwi driver year-round experience with the best in the world. McLaren was the first recipient, to be followed by others later including Denny Hulme. McLaren went to Cooper and stayed seven years. He raced in F2 and was entered in the German Grand Prix at the N?rburgring in which F2 and F1 cars competed together. He astounded the motor racing fraternity by being first F2, and fifth overall, in a field of the best drivers in the world.

McLaren joined the Cooper factory F1 team alongside Jack Brabham in 1959 and won the 1959 United States Grand Prix at age 22 years 104 days, becoming the youngest ever GP winner (not including the Indianapolis 500) up to that time. He followed that with a win in the Argentine Grand Prix, the first race of the 1960 Formula One season, and he would finish runner-up that season to Brabham.

McLaren won the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix, eventually finishing a fine third in the championship that year. The next year, he founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd, which remains in the Formula One championship simply as McLaren. McLaren continued to race and win in Coopers (including the New Zealand GP in 1964).

McLaren left Cooper at the end of 1965, and announced his own GP racing team, with co-driver and fellow Kiwi Chris Amon. Amon left in 1967 to drive for Ferrari. In 1968, McLaren was joined by another fellow Kiwi Denny Hulme, who had become world champion in 1967 with Brabham. McLaren took his fourth career win racing his own McLaren car at Spa in 1968, achieving the team’s first Grand Prix win. Hulme won twice in the McLaren-Ford.

The 1969 championship was also a success, with McLaren finishing third in the standings despite taking no wins. In tribute to his homeland, McLaren’s cars featured the “speedy Kiwi” logo.

McLaren’s design flair and ingenuity were graphically demonstrated in powerful sports car racing. Just as the Can-Am began to become very popular with fans in Canada and the U.S., the new McLaren cars finished second twice, and third twice, in six races.

In 1967, they won five of six races and in 1968, four of six. The following year, McLarens proved unbeatable, winning all 11 races. In two races, they finished 1?2?3. (McLaren, Hulme, and Mark Donohue).

In 1966, McLaren and co-driver Chris Amon won the prestigious 24 Hour Race at Le Mans in a Ford GT40.

McLaren was a competitive driver, but his legacy, the McLaren Racing Team, stems from his abilities as an analyst, engineer, and manager. In the early days of McLaren sports cars, McLaren was testing and as he drove out of the pits, he noticed the fuel filler access door was flapping up and down as he drove. The current aerodynamic thinking was that it should have been pressed more firmly in place as the speed of the car increased. Instead, it bounced more vigorously as the speed increased. Instantly, his frustration at the sloppy work changed and he had an insight. Stopping in the pits, he grabbed a pair of shears, and started cutting the bodywork away behind the radiator. Climbing back in the car, he immediately began turning lap times faster than before. […]

From that session came the “nostrils” that have been a key McLaren design feature, including in the McLaren P1 road car. […]

Bruce McLaren died (aged 32) when his Can-Am car crashed on the Lavant Straight just before Woodcote corner at Goodwood Circuit in England on 2 June 1970. He had been testing his new M8D when the rear bodywork came adrift at speed. The loss of aerodynamic downforce destabilised the car, which spun, left the track, and hit a bunker used as a flag station.

Referring to the death of teammate Timmy Mayer, McLaren had, earlier, written:

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. End of quote.

Records that Bruce held for a period include:

Youngest driver to score?points in Formula One:?21 years, 253 days?(1959 Monaco Grand Prix)

Youngest driver to set?the fastest lap in Formula One:?21 years, 322 days?(1959 British Grand Prix). Currently held by?Fernando Alonso at?21 years, 321 days?(2003 Canadian GP)

Youngest driver to score a?podium position in Formula One:?21 years, 322 days?(1959 British Grand Prix)

Youngest Formula One World Drivers’ Championship runner-up:?23 years, 5 days (1960 season)