Bruce McLaren (pt.1) + 1959 British GP.

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Bruce Mclaren: The Man Behind the Name (Part 1).

Bruce Mclaren OutlineBruce Mclaren was born on August 30, 1937.[1]  On June 2, 1970, he crashed and his life came to a tragically early end.  He accomplished much in his years on earth and his legacy, the McLaren F1 team, has been a persistent presence in Formula 1 ever since.

Bruce Mclaren was born in New Zealand to the son of a service station owner.  An affinity for cars seemed to be imprinted on Bruce’s genetic code.  The most significant event of his young life occurred when was nine years old.  Following some diagnostic confusion, Doctor’s diagnosed young Bruce with Perthes’ Disease.

Perthes’ disease is a complex process involving the temporary loss of blood supply to the hip.[2]  Typically, it afflicts children aged 4 to 10.  During the period of revascularization, the hip is liable to collapse, leaving walking permanently painful.  In those days, the only treatment was to spend two years with your legs suspended.[3]  Confined to a wheeled cart, which suspended his legs, Bruce experienced enforced solitude and idleness for a period of years.  His family did their best to include Bruce during this period, taking him on family vacations to the family beach house.

My wonderful sister-in-law Chelsea is confined to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy.  Over the years, I’ve had a firsthand view of the challenges presented to anyone that requires a wheelchair for mobility.  On the one hand, I have been amazed at Chelsea’s ability, with the help of her parents and others, to get almost anywhere: from off-road trails to tightly-confined restaurants and beyond.  On the other hand, I have seen the constant challenges that the world throws at everyone with limited ambulation.  I mention my sister-in-law, Chelsea, because it is important to recognize the difficulties faced by those with disabilities.  Bruce, who only temporarily lost his ability to walk, was forever changed by this experience.  From what I can tell, he was more attuned to the human condition than many people.

Austin Ulster Vague OutlineBruce was lucky.  He recovered, albeit with a moderate limp that would persist for the rest of his life.  By 15, he was already learning to drive his father’s Austin Ulster, a 1920’s roadster.[4]  Soon enough, his Austin Ulster would be highly tuned and he would be enjoying success in local amateur racing…(To be continued, Part 2).

The 1959 British Grand Prix.

The 1959 British Grand Prix took place at Aintree, instead of the usual Silverstone Circuit.  Aintree was constructed on the grounds of a horse racing venue.  Jack Brabham took pole position, completing the three-mile lap in just 1:58.0.[5]  This was the first pole for Cooper-Climax since Stirling Moss took pole at the first Grand Prix of the season – Monaco.  For clarification, that was a temporary drive, as Stirling Moss was set to drive for British Racing Motors (BRM) for the remainder of the season.

The race, supposedly, was more interesting in person than on paper.  On paper, Jack Brabham led from flag to flag.  In person, Jack Brabham was driving at an incredible pace to stay well-ahead of Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren as they set fast lap after fast lap in their battle.[6]

Check out this subsequently commentated 16mm footage for more on the race:

A couple of additional notes.  Ferrari was absent due to workforce strikes in Italy.  Also, Bruce McLaren tied Stirling Moss for the fastest lap of the race at 1:57.0.  In so doing, he became the youngest F1 driver to have a race fastest lap at 21 years and 322 days.  It would take until the 2003 season for Fernando Alonso to take over this record; he was 21 years and 321 days.

Driver’s Championship.

  • Jack Brabham – 27
  • Tony Brooks – 14
  • Phil Hill – 9

Constructor’s Championship.

  • Cooper-Climax – 26
  • Scuderia Ferrari – 16
  • British Racing Motors – 14
  • carshapesbeige

[1] Eoin Young, McLaren Memories, 21-36, (1st ed., Haynes 2005) (providing a concise but insightful summary of Bruce McLaren’s early life).

[2] American Academy of Orthropaedic Surgeons, Perthes Disease, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00070 (accessed July 21, 2013) (overviewing the etiology, symptoms, and treatment of Perthes Disease).

[3] Young, McLaren Memories at 22-24.

[4] Id. at 26-28.

[5] Wikipedia, 1959 British Grand Prix (accessed July 22, 2013) (providing the background information, from which I create my race notes).

[6] Martin Williamson, ESPN F1, Brabham and Cooper take the plaudits, (accessed July 23, 2013) (describing the major events of the 1959 British GP).