theThere’s a wonderful moment of schoolboy humour, which reveals much about McLaren’s egalitarian nature, and his hunger to innovate, when he and his engineers start to build McLaren-badged race cars. He hires the designer and engineer Robin Herd, impressed by his work at Concorde, particularly with a lightweight aircraft material called mallite. One morning, Herd goes into his office and shuts the door. The team wheels out a tube of mallite that they have fashioned into a cannon, and proceed to fire a homemade missile at the door. The explosion is more than they bargained for, and the missile flies through the door, leaving a gaping hole. Giggling, the men shove the weapon under the desk before Herd, mystified, emerges, none the wiser.
This is a team who would go on to build Formula One cars, Can-Am and road cars, so successfully that Bruce McLaren remains the only man, since 1968, to win a grand prix in a car he designed, which bears his name on the nose. And yet they managed to remain a band of giggling brothers, so loyal that every one of them turned up to work the day after Bruce McLaren died, despite being given the day off.
“Bruce was a superstar”, says Jackie Stewart in the film. Homage is also paid by Emerson Fittipaldi, Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti, although it is McLaren’s own words of respect, paid to team-mate Timmy Mayer, who predeceased McLaren, and quoted so often, that form the best-fitting tribute: “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.”
McLaren is in cinemas on May 25th and on DVD and digital download on May 29th
Photograph courtesy of LAT Images