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Celebrating and Remembering the Genius,
Full-Tilt Driver: Bruce McLaren
[Originally posted in May 2020]
Fifty years ago, we lost Bruce McLaren due to a mechanical failure accident at high speed while test driving his new Can-Am car at the Goodwood, UK, road-racing track. That was June 2, 1970.
Nine months earlier, I had done a photographic study of the 1969 Riverside International Raceway LA Times Grand Prix on October 25 and 26, 1969. I also covered the 1970 LA Times Grand Prix and Can-Am race. October 26, 1969 was Bruce's last appearance at Riverside.
My photographs of Bruce on that day had been lost in my files for over 50 years. I did not even remember seeing the negatives or the proofs of the absolutely priceless and perfect photographs of Bruce in action at Turn 6 that day.
Since March 10, 2020, I have been digitizing at high resolution the original B&W 35 mm Tri-X film negatives and making prints from 8 x 10 to 24 x 36 inches. The posted photographs are lower resolution than what is used for your ordered prints, due to limitations set by Selz. More photographs from the 1969 and 1970 LA Times Grand Prix will be available soon. Unfortunately, I still have not found my photographs from earlier sessions at Riverside Raceway.
Among the several almost miraculously timed photographs of the races, I caught the exact instant Bruce McLaren signaled to pass the Lola driven by Vic Nelli in Turn 6, going wide. Bruce clearly owned the keys to Turns 6 and 7. Both he and Denis were notorious for consistently passing wide at those turns while other drivers often struggled with a turn that started out uphill, cambered in, then flattened out at the sharpest point and went to a cambered out final twist before leveling out to a 900 hundred foot or so straightaway that went up and down a bit. It was straight only on the horizontal plane.
Bruce did not finish the 1969 race due to an accident. His teammate, Denis Hulme finished first. Denis Hulme finished first at Riverside in 1969, 1970 and 1971.
There is a very intense in-person narrative posted online about Bruce's accident that day. I won't spoil it for you. Check Jim Stoffaire's Tribute to Bruce McLaren 15 years ago and his eye witness account of Bruce's accident on 10/26/1969.
First place through fourth place in 1969 was Denis Hulme, Chuck Parsons, Mario Andretti, and Dan Gurney. Hulme's average speed for the entire 201.3 mile race was 121 mph. That means that speeds often exceeded 160 mph on the straightaways.