You might know the name, but perhaps not the man. McLaren is one the most recognisable brands in motorsport, and its founder, New Zealander Bruce McLaren, is the subject of this documentary feature from director Roger Donaldson.
Born in 1937, the young McLaren tinkered in his father’s service station workshop and battled a crippling condition that consigned him to a bed frame for two years, before taking up racing at the age of 15. Mentored by the great Jack Brabham, McLaren won his first Grand Prix in 1959, aged 22, and his racing achievements escalated from there – conquering the Monaco Grand Prix, Formula One, Le Mans and the Can-Am series (multiple times) before his sudden and tragic death in 1970, aged 32.
McLaren’s prowess in engineering matched his skills behind the wheel, and after moving to Europe and assembling a talented team, he began constructing the cars that would ensure his legacy as both a legend of motorsport and automotive design.
A companion piece of sorts to Donaldson’s The World’s Fastest Indian (a biopic on another Kiwi with a need for speed, Burt Munro), McLaren incorporates archive footage capturing the glamour and excitement of a sport whose competitors were dubbed the “spitfire pilots of the ’50s and ’60s”, along with animated interludes, personal tapes made by McLaren, and interviews with the men who worked and raced alongside him.
The vintage racers on display are alone worth the price of a ticket, but you don’t need to be a petrolhead to appreciate Bruce McLaren’s amazing achievements on and off the track. Donaldson’s documentary is both a revealing portrait of a champion who lived fast and died young, and the inspiring story of a man who dared to dream big.
In cinemas: Limited season nationally from June 21-25
Starring: Bruce McLaren, Mario Andretti, Alastair Caldwell
Directed by: Roger Donaldson