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A little over fifty years ago Bruce McLaren lined up on the grid for the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix in his McLaren MB2, it was the debut for the eponymous named team the team which we regard today as one of the greatest marques in F1 history.
There will have been considerable apprehension, pride and enthusiasm that day as the starting process began but no doubt as Kiwi Bruce was already a three-time Grand Prix winner with Cooper.
When the McLarens line up on the grid for this year’s Australian Grand Prix, in just over four weeks, that same level of apprehension will be there, but I doubt the same level of pride and enthusiasm will be.
There are the obvious differences between the two eras yet there is one striking similarity and whilst it may have been readily accepted and considered normal in 1966 it seems not very popular for 2018.
Bruce while contesting the F1 World Championship, as a driver and Constructor also contested the Can Am series in North America and with fellow Kiwi Chris Amon also entered – and won – the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hour.
It is now common knowledge that in 2018 McLaren driver Fernando Alonso will contest the F1 World Championship, the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hour. Just as Bruce McLaren’s feat in 1966 wasn’t a first Fernando Alonso’s feat this year will most likely not be the last.
It was inevitable that Bruce McLaren would become a constructor. He was very active in motor racing in New Zealand and was encouraged by Jack Brabham to try his hand in Europe after Brabham was impressed with McLaren’s skill and car preparation while he was there for the1958 New Zealand.
When Bruce McLaren did become a constructor in 1963 he joined an elite group of successful constructor/drivers. An example of how normal such commitments were in that era that during 1966 nine of the drivers that raced in F1 were or would become constructors or team owners.
Records show Emerson Fittipaldi was the last constructor/driver when he competed in the Fittipaldi F8 for the 1980 F1 season. We have though four eponymous teams on the grid, with McLaren the only team where the owner was one the drivers.
What won’t be similar is Alonso’s McLaren will have the iconic Papaya Orange livery which wasn’t the livery for Bruce’s MB2 debut. You may have thought it would have been used but the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix was used for filming parts of the movie Grand Prix.
It meant Bruce’s McLaren MB2 was painted in white and green for Grand Prix director John Frankenheimer to be able to use the McLaren as a double for the fictional Yamura cars in the film.
Alonso might seize an opportunity to seek out Brendon Hartley, the reigning Le Mans 24-hour winner or 2015 winner Niko Hulkenberg to receive any advice on competing in the World’s greatest race.
What won’t be comforting for Alonso is that Toyota Gazoo Racing, the team that he will contest the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hour with, failed to finish with both their cars in the 2017 classic.