McLaren proved nice guys finish first
Kiwi great Bruce McLaren. Picture: Bruce McLaren Trust.

Kiwi great Bruce McLaren won the 1962 Australian Grand Prix at the old Caversham airfield circuit after leader Jack Brabham collided with a backmarker.

As well as piloting his 2.7-litre Cooper Coventry Climax around the 3.62km track, McLaren drove probably the first Cooper S touring car seen in WA and astonished local fans with its speed.

"I well remember the warmth with which our senior members spoke of him," recalled motor-racing tragic John Hurney. "They said there was absolutely no ego or attitude; he was just a superb driver, engineer and all-round nice guy."

The founder of the McLaren Racing Formula One team was first headquartered in a corner of an earthmoving machinery storage shed in New Zealand where he and mechanics Tyler Alexander and Walter Willmott toiled away at their first race car.

The car they built, to a design drawn out by McLaren with a stick in the dirt floor of their workshop, was the Cooper Zerex Oldsmobile sports car. It wasn't called a McLaren because he was still contracted to the Cooper Team as a driver.

The child who overcame a crippling disability which saw him spend two years in traction, established the most successful motor-racing team in the history of the sport. In his all too short life, McLaren and his team went on to design and build his cars for wins in the arenas of Formula One, Indianapolis, Le Mans, Can Am and the Tasman Cup.

His principal competitor, Ferrari, tried and failed to win the Can Am Series and the Indianapolis 500, leaving the McLaren record unequalled.

He lost his life at the famed Goodwood circuit in the UK in June, 1970, while testing one of his mighty Can Am cars. McLaren had no chance. He was just 32.

The patron of this weekend's Perth International Historic Challenge is his sister Jan, who brings with her the original 1962 winner's trophy for display.

Ticket sales and race program at www.wascc.com.au

The West Australian

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