This was the Can-Am series for hugely powerful open-topped sportscars run in the USA and Canada. The cars were very fast, even louder and truly spectacular. Bruce had a foot in both camps and it was his team’s runaway success in Can-Am that earned considerable prize money to pave the way for wins and eventually titles in F1.
Tragically, it was when testing his latest Can-Am challenger at Goodwood in June 1970 that something broke and he crashed to his death. That he loved Goodwood, and it him, made this all the more of a cruel stroke.
Having travelled from his native New Zealand to race in Europe in 1958, he was an instant hit in F2 and was snapped up by Cooper to race in F1. By the end of the following season, aged 22, he became what was then the youngest F1 winner when he triumphed in the US GP at Sebring.
In 1962, he was the star of Goodwood’s Easter meeting, winning the Lavant Cup in his Cooper. His skills were shown further when he helped Ford to its first Le Mans win in 1966. Observing how his team leader Jack Brabham went on to build his own racing cars, Bruce followed suit and enjoyed one of his cars, a McLaren-Oldsmobile M1A, winning the Whitsun Trophy race here in 1965 in the hands of John Coundley.
This was only the fifth win for a McLaren racing car and the marque went on to win four Grands Prix during his lifetime, with Bruce taking the first of these in the 1968 Belgian GP, since when it has added 177 more.
The Bruce McLaren Trophy is a race for Can-Am and Group 7 sports prototypes of a type that raced up to 1966.
Images courtesy of LAT and The GP Library