‘Well I guess, just briefly, we just worked very hard. Getting beaten last year was about the best thing that could have happened to us in a way because it got everybody working as hard as they could go and I guess this is the result’. So spoke Bruce McLaren in 1967, during the second year of the fabled Canadian-American Challenge Cup, better known simply as Can-Am.
In the series’ first year the Lola T70 Spyder – particularly in the hands of John Surtees – was the car to have. In what has become typical McLaren fashion ever since, Bruce McLaren and his team went away, had a think, put in many hours of extremely hard work, returned to the fray and won convincingly. The thing is though, McLaren didn’t just return and put in a winning season, it returned and utterly dominated the best period of what must be one of the all time high points of motorsport.
From 1967 when the title was taken from Lola, McLaren won five straight Can-Am titles, all the time developing its cars. In fact, had the huge resources of Audi and Porsche not allied with Team Penske and its dominant driver/engineer Mark Donohue to create the Porsche 917/10 and then the 917/30, it would have won in 1972 as well.
With next year’s Festival of Speed theme revealed as ‘Full Throttle – The Endless Pursuit of Power’, expect lots of content from GRR that celebrates huge engines and outputs. Can-Am fits the bill perfectly. By 1973 the Chevrolet motor in the back of the McLarens was reputed to be producing north of 900bhp, which sounds like a lot until you learn that the Penske-developed, twin-turbo flat 12 in the back of the Porsche 917/30 had a few hundred bhp more …
There have been a few moments in the history of motorsport that a series outside of Formula One could reasonably claim to be faster. We reckon Can-Am might be not just the best of those, but one of the most incredible best series there’s ever been.