A blast from my past

Bruce McLaren's daughter Amanda next to his statue - unveiled at McLaren's HQ on the 50th anniversary of his death

Bruce McLaren's daughter Amanda next to his statue - unveiled at McLaren's Woking HQ on the 50th anniversary of his death last June - Credit: PA

The 2021 Formula 1 season has kicked off and already Lewis Hamilton is the guy to beat being one point ahead of Max Verstappen, his obvious rival.

Lewis has equalled Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles and is set to beat that this year.

No one would bet against that.

Some years ago, Nikki Lauda said of Schumacher, ‘He is a legend, and his record will not be beaten in our lifetime’. Never doubt a determined Brit is all I can say. 

Early in my automotive career, I met up with an equally determined racer called Bruce McLaren, whose name lives on to this day, not only in the F1 team he created, but also the roadgoing supercars manufactured in Woking at the team headquarters.  

He started the McLaren team, which has been one of the most successful in F1 championship history, winning a total of eight World Constructors' Championships and 12 World Drivers' Championships.

Currently the team are in the ascendency and are poised for great things this year. Previous winners include Nikki Lauda, Alain Prost, James Hunt and Ayrton Senna. 

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I had the pleasure to be greeted by him and Piers Courage at the Italian GP in 1969 at the F1 team hotel where Bruce bought me a beer. Sadly, he died within a year while testing a Can Am race car at Goodwood.

Perhaps the only other significant F1 team owner of the time who also now manufactures road-going supercars was Enzo Ferrari.

Not only do both teams compete today but they are the only ones with continuous provenance from the 1970s, both on public roads and track.

It was an unidentified supercar that closed up on me recently as I drove to a classic car auction viewing day in Poole, on a deserted A35 stretch between Honiton and Lyme Regis.

I was enjoying the unusually empty road but not hanging around myself. Normally this road to Dorchester is a bore and speed is determined by the slowest caravan ahead of you but not today.

It made a pleasant change to keep a good pace on while trying to watch the speed limit.  

Leaving the Lyme Regis roundabout, there is a long straight section ahead and I was up to the speed limit in seconds but Mr Supercar blasted past me like an angry F1 race car at full tilt.

I had opened my window in anticipation and the sound was glorious.

At the next bend, his air brake deployed in the form of a large rear wing to help stabilise the car and create much needed downforce, and then he was off again into the distance.  

Did I detect a smirk of satisfaction as the driver flew past and obliterated me? Well, not as huge as the grin I had on my face.

You see, the name on the front and rear of his car was that of the charming and humble man who bought me a beer all those years ago.

I will drink to his ongoing legacy. Cheers Bruce.