A brief electronic conversation with my middle son Matt has prompted me to dig out the attached photograph. On Matt’s travels around Australia he met up with a Kiwi who once worked with Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme in the early days of McLaren Cars. The heavily tinted picture (converted from a 35mm transparency) shows the M7A at Brands Hatch on practice day prior to the British GP in 1968 (taken on my Dad’s 35mm Werra which I still have tucked away somewhere in the loft).
It is the detail that fascinates. Everything is on the slant because the paddock at Brands is on a gradient. The red saloon parked adjacent to the M7A was the ‘support’ vehicle and came with a set of tyres on the roof and I am fairly sure pulled the GP car on a trailer; there must have been another for Hulme’s car as I have no recollection of a transporter. The red saloon is a large Ford, possibly a Zodiac, doubling up as a barrier to keep the crowds at bay, though not very effectively.
Bruce McLaren is sat on the left at the edge of the frame and I have always liked to think the standing figure with his back to the camera is Moss but he looks too bulky for this to have been true. There are various bottles of Pepsi, oil drums, cans and a toolkit, so paltry, it might have come straight from my garage; all of this many years prior to the arrival of the fastidious Ron Dennis. Again, I have always imagined that the lady sitting on the wheel to the right is Patty McLaren but this is pure supposition; certainly her hair colour was different in later years. Who are the mechanics working on the rear of the car – Colin Beanland and John Muller? Could it be Phil Kerr leaning on the car door?
There is no hint of the paddocks’ journey towards the corporate enclaves they have now become but ironically, the spectators look much smarter than a similar crowd gathering in the 21st Century. There is not a tee shirt in sight, no obvious jeans, no football shirts and no sponsor logos. Neither is there a major sponsor for the M7A although the colour scheme defies the standard New Zealand racing colours of green and silver, McLaren adopting their early trademark orange so that the Can-Am cars would show up better on US television. There is nothing digital anywhere, no mobile phones, no digital cameras, everything is pure hardware and open neck shirts, except of course the driver, pure software, who earned a relative pittance for putting his life in danger every day he donned his helmet.
Bruce died two years later at 12:22pm on 2nd June 1970, testing the new M8D Can-Am car at Silverstone; he lost control of the car at 170mph when a section of the rear bodywork lifted.
To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of a life to do nothing with one’s ability, for I feel life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.
Bruce McLaren on the death of his team mate Timmy Mayer.