Gallery: Race aces honour Bruce McLaren in 1992 Memorial Garden opening

02nd June 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

June 2nd is a date etched painfully in the memories of family, friends and fans of the late, great Bruce McLaren. On Tuesday June 2nd, 1970, the Grand Prix winner, Can-Am champion and McLaren team founder lost his life in a crash while testing the team’s latest Can-Am challenger, the M8D, at Goodwood. 

The rear bodywork of the Chevrolet V8 Group 7 sports-prototype became detached through the flat-out Lavant kink and 32-year-old McLaren lost control, colliding with a marshal’s post on the infield.

McLaren’s death was a massive blow to those among his close-knit team, but they rallied and steadily laid the foundations for the multiple world-title-winning superteam and automotive empire that it is nearly half a century later. Twenty-two years after the tragedy, on June 2nd, 1992, which appropriately was also a Tuesday, scores of McLaren’s former team members, team-mates, rivals and friends returned to Goodwood to witness Bruce’s widow Pat unveil a memorial headstone in a small, neat garden in the corner of the Motor Circuit paddock.

Back in June 1992, of course, the Motor Circuit was still six years away from reopening in all its splendour for the first Revival Meeting. And the inaugural Festival of Speed was still a year away, too. Little can Lord March, seen in the images captured by well-known motorsport snapper Gary Hawkins, and the assembled throng have realised just what a transformation would take place after many years of behind-the-scenes graft to create the Festival and restore the Motor Circuit.  

Among those paying their respects to McLaren were Formula 1 World Champions Sir Jack Brabham, John Surtees and Denny Hulme, Grand Prix heroes Stirling Moss, Innes Ireland, Peter Gethin and Howden Ganley, F1 team bosses John Cooper, Ken Tyrrell, Teddy Mayer and Rob Walker, Cosworth engines co-founder Keith Duckworth, stalwart McLaren designer Gordon Coppuck and team manager Alastair Caldwell, double World Champion Graham Hill’s widow Bette and sportscar ace David Piper.

And in what must have made for eerie and emotional scenes, Bruce’s long-time friend, team-mate and fellow Kiwi Hulme did some demonstration laps aboard an M8D, the car in which he had continued to fly the McLaren flag in Can-Am after the accident. In fact, Hulme won six races during the autumn of 1970 – at Watkins Glen, Edmonton, Mid-Ohio, Brainerd, Laguna Seca and Riverside – to secure his second title, thereby matching Bruce’s tally from 1967 and ’69.

Our thanks to Gary for capturing this important reunion and tribute to Bruce McLaren, a great friend to Goodwood then and always. We can only imagine the sort of impact this sort of gathering of greats would have had if the internet and its social-media spin-offs had been in full flow in 1992…

Photography by Gary Hawkins

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