The first steps to a great heritage
- Mattijs Diepraam
- 8W October 1998 issue
- Goodwood - Bruce McLaren's mastery of the Sussex track, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Scuderia Serenissima - Merchants of Venice, by Mattijs Diepraam
1966 Belgian GP (qualifying)
Sir Jack Brabham may have been the first driver to win the World Championship in his own car, the marque bearing Bruce McLaren's name has gone on to record more modern-day GP wins than any other outfit still active in F1 today.
But it hasn't always been that easy for a McLaren GP car - Bruce McLaren's first endeavours in a self-designed car were quite disastrous, to say the least. One of the reasons for this poor form was McLaren's unlucky hand in picking engines. For his debut race at Monaco he put a Ford V8 engine (not the famous DFV but an adapted Indy V8) in the back of the white M2B, while Spa saw the debut of the Italian Serenissima engine. It was a very serene debut indeed, the Serenissima letting go in the first qualifying session, leaving Bruce hanging in the dry. He used the unit for two more races though. It pulled the same stunt at Zandvoort but in Britain the engine remarkably lasted the whole race, enabling McLaren to finish in 6th place. For the two North American races he turned back to the Ford V8, which brought him a 5th at the Glen. The highpoint of Bruce's year, however, was his Le Mans win with Chris Amon.
After its difficult first year, the McLaren team struggled again in 1967. Bruce's choice of BRM engines again proved to be off the mark, although he came 4th at Monaco and managed regular top-ten qualifications come end-of-season. But on the whole the season was a fluke, Bruce even departing for the Eagle team for three races.
Then in 1968 the team's form quickly turned. Bruce fitted the Cosworth engine in his latest M7A design, recruited reigning Champion and fellow Kiwi Denny Hulme and picked the famous orange as its new team colour. This saw the start of a successful Championship campaign. McLaren himself came back to Spa for a win, albeit in strange circumstances (he only was being told he won after he had returned to the paddock!) and won the Race of Champions as well, while Hulme racked up consecutive wins at Monza and the Canadian Mont-Tremblant track.
From 1967 on, the McLarens were also a big force in the CanAm series, with McLaren, Hulme - "The Bruce and Denny Show" - and Mark Donohue completely dominating the proceedings. Hulme remained faithful to the McLaren team until 1974, by which time the team, now in the hands of Teddy Mayer and bereft of its original tangerine colours, had become the team to beat. And it still is...