Bruce McLaren March 1970: New Zealand motor-racing driver Bruce McLaren (1937 - 1970) sits on the wheel of his McLaren-Ford M14A before the start of the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in Kent. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

These days the name “McLaren” means many things to many people. Formula 1 fans know it as a team that has been around since they started watching F1. People who are into exotic cars know McLaren as the brand that produces the P1 and similar designs.

A lot of people don’t know the origins of McLaren as a brand, or as a name. The 2017 movie simply titled “McLaren” goes into deep detail about Bruce McLaren, the race car driver who started the franchise that has become McLaren. The movie is very interesting as it takes you into a universe of racing that is so different from these days.

Documentary “McLaren” Focuses On The Career And Life Of Bruce McLaren

The Early Years

The movie starts all the way back in Bruce’s childhood. After Bruce fought against crippling Perthes disease and started driving, his peers noticed that he had an innate ability to drive well. He entered his first race at 14. The first real big break in his life was when he attended the 1958 New Zealand Grand Prix.

There he met Jack Brabham, who became a mentor for Bruce. Brabham gave Bruce, who was 20 at the time, a scholarship to drive with Cooper Car Company. He drove in Formula 2, having consistently outstanding performances. His biggest Formula 2 performance was at the Nurburgring, where he finished first in F2, and outdrove many Formula 1 cars who were sharing the track time.

The Risks Of Racing

When he made the move up to Formula 1, one of his most notable wins was the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix. On the 20th anniversary of the race, Bruce drove 100 laps to pick up the victory, with Ferrari’s Phil Hill 1.3 seconds behind. Race marshal Ange Baldoni was killed during this race.

Like what was mentioned in the film review of Williams, racing back then was not safe. It was noted in the film that Bruce saw many of his racing friends dying at very young ages because of the risks that they took. The biggest name that they noted in the film that shook his whole team was Timmy Mayer. Mayer died after a collision with a tree, killing him almost instantly.

The McLaren Brand Grows

As Bruce’s success continued on, he became more ambitious. He set his sights on the Indy 500 and Can-Am racing while still working in Formula 1. When McLaren became an independent team, Bruce worked harder than ever. Bruce was described as a personality who felt the need to keep himself busy, or was called a “workaholic”. It ended up going to Bruce’s detriment that he was so determined to work.

The Tragic Death Of Bruce McLaren

On June 2, 1970, Bruce was putting in laps at the Goodwood Circuit. His team told him that they were going for a break, but Bruce wanted to do one last lap. He made changes to the back of his car before the lap. He lost control during the lap, going at high speeds into a marshals post that was set to be demolished eventually anyways. Similar to Timmy Mayer, he was dead right after/almost right after contact.

The McLaren team was ordered to “take a day off”, and went right back to work afterwards. They carried on because that’s what Bruce would have wanted them to do. Despite Bruce’s absence, the team saw success, winning the Indy 500 and the Formula 1 Championship two years in a row. Since then the McLaren franchise has continued on.

Post-Viewing Thoughts

The movie used a lot of re-creation of scenes, but it never felt over-used. Personally, I felt that it could have been emphasized in the movie that McLaren is such a huge company these days. It was shown for a few seconds the modern cars from McLaren, but none of it felt contextualized enough. That was the only thing that felt missing in the movie. Documenting the years of Bruce McLaren was fantastically done, with a great selection of cast to interview for details.

The Last Word

In general this movie was a great watch. Since almost all information was new for me, I never felt bored. In my books, this 92 minute film directed by Roger Donaldson was a success.

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