Brought to you by thejudge13 contributor John Myburgh
– 1970: The death of a legend
A 2.42-mile perimeter road of the old RAF Westhampnett (which started life as an Emergency Landing Ground for the nearby RAF Tangmere during WWII) was being used as a motor racing circuit since the Duke Of Richmond brought motor racing to the area on 18th September 1948. The Goodwood circuit has six main corners, a chicane and a couple of short straights.
Sir Stirling Moss described the circuit as a challenge, every yard of it, for both driver and car. He added, “Adverse cambers, double apexes on several corners, slight undulations in unexpected places, keep drivers busy and throw cars about without a moment’s respite. If a car handles well here[,] its road-holding qualities are proved to the hilt.”
Given the challenging nature of the circuit, it makes sense that the young man called Bruce McLaren wanted to test the new McLaren M8D there. Bruce was testing Denny Hulme’s car, the car that Bruce McLaren was preparing for for him for the 1970 Can-Am series, a series in which McLaren and his team of drivers had been very successful at in the past.
It was the 2nd of June 1970. Bruce was accelerating out of Lavant, the double apex right hander onto Lavant Straight. Exiting the corner at considerable speed he accelerated fast. Unseen by anyone, a pin securing the tail was missing from the car. As Bruce was approaching Woodcote corner, the wind pressure was enough to rip the rear bodywork and wing off the car. Devoid of its downforce, the car spun, left the track and slid broadside into the marshal’s post at approximately 100mph (161km/h).
Bruce McLaren, known as a brilliant engineer/designer and driver combination that had no equal, lost his life, aged just 32 years old.
Motorsport author Eoin Young has noted that Bruce McLaren had “virtually penned his own epitaph” in his 1964 book From the Cockpit. Referring to the death of team mate Timmy Mayer, McLaren had 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”.
Although Bruce McLaren died at a young age, his legacy lives on. The McLaren Formula 1 team, lead by Ron Dennis, became one of the most successful Formula 1 teams of all times. Recently, in preparation for their 50 year anniversary they commissioned the video below as a tribute to their founder.
“…What might be seen as a tragic end was in fact a beginning. As I always said, to do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. Indeed, life is not measured in years alone but in achievement…”