Cary Taylor worked as a Chief Engineer with the McLaren Team from 1968 through until 1974 and was present at Goodwood on June 2nd 1970 when Bruce was tragically killed during testing of the M8D.
Cary had returned to McLaren in April 1970 to again be Denny’s Chief Engineer for the first six races of the Can-Am series for that season. And as it turned out these were to be an extremely harrowing four months with Denny burning his hands at Indy and then the death of Bruce at Goodwood on June 2nd. Cary’s contract finished in July and again he headed home to New Zealand as planned. However his days with McLaren were far from over…
By Cary Taylor
My first meeting with Bruce was in January 1968 at Wigram, Christchurch during the then very popular Tasman Series. Bruce was driving a BRM and Denny was contesting the series as the newly crowned 1967 F1 World Champion in a Brabham. I had previously been in the UK with the Brabham Racing Organisation for the 65, 66 and 67 Formula 1 seasons and had proudly been responsible for the race car preparation of Denny’s F1 Brabham during his remarkable world championship win. The outcome of the meeting with Bruce and myself was an invitation to join McLaren Racing as part of their Can-Am team with responsibility as Chief Engineer on Denny’s car - and who could say no to that!
I left NZ and flew to Boston in October to meet up with the team and the cars which would be flown in from the UK. Boston was also Tyler Alexander’s home town, thus making the task of preparing tow trucks, trailers and all the hundred and one pieces of essential equipment easier to organise. Coming as I had from the previous years European F1 scene I was immediately impressed with the informality of the Can-Am scene. It was motor racing as it should be with the interaction and accessibility of drivers / mechanics with the media, officials and spectators all in a very controlled but not officious manner. The success of the 1968 season was principally determined long before the cars even arrived in the USA. The McLaren package included two of the best sports car drivers in the world, driving cars that were technically vastly superior. But we still had our share of work to do and things didn’t always go according to plan. The Bridgehampton race was a total disaster with both cars DNF due to engine problems. However, at the finish of the series in Las Vegas, McLaren cars had won four out of six races with Denny taking out the series championship and Bruce finishing second.
On the completion of the series, one car remained on the East Coast for promotional duties and the other car I trailered back from Los Angeles to Boston, where it would be flown back to the UK. To give some idea of the mileage we had travelled during the 1968 series and the vast size of America, this journey took me one week, driving almost eight hours a day. After reaching Boston I packed the car up ready for its return to England and was glad to be on a plane home to New Zealand myself.
Can-Am Series 1969
After a well earned Christmas and summer holiday break at home in NZ, I returned to the UK and McLaren Racing around March 1969 ready to do battle again. This year I would again be responsible for Denny’s race car preparation as well as being actively involved in the car’s build up in the factory with fellow New Zealander Jimmy Stone to assist me. The build up proceeded with typical McLaren methodical efficiency and from memory, without too many dramas. A significent part of the car build up program involves “plumbing” the oil, fuel and water to and from the engine. Additional hours were spent constructing bend by bend, weld by weld, the spagetti looking jumble of stainless steel header pipes and collectors that would make up the exhaust system. Bruce was in his engineering element overseeing the production of these cars, having the unique ability to ensure everybody who was involved, felt proud that their contribution, no matter how small, was vital to the overall team success. The finished M8B cars were primarily a better engineered, more refined version of the previous season’s chassis, with the most significant and distinctive feature being the chassis mounted high rear airfoil.
The 1969 series was billed as being the million dollar sports car race series with 11 races starting at Mosport in June and finishing in Texas over three months later. Generally speaking ( apart from when the script went wrong ) the opposition seemed unable to mount any sustained serious challenge to the McLaren package of technically superior cars with stronger more reliable engines.
Bruce and Denny really enjoyed driving these cars and the overall Can-Am environment was a welcome escape from their Formula 1 races in Europe. The series was both very rewarding yet physically very demanding, due in part to the enormous amount of traveling involved to and from races with all the equipment, personnel and transport necessary to support our 3 car team, which was additional to the normal race car preparation. Much has been written statistically about the runaway success and total domination of the McLaren Can-Am series cars and in particular the “Bruce and Denny Show” during the 1969 series. At the end of the eleven race series, the championship win was Bruce’s with six wins and Denny second overall with five wins - therefore a clean sweep for McLaren cars winning eleven out of eleven races.
To have been part of this motor racing history during this series was truly unforgettable with many special memories of Bruce, Denny and all our support crew and the fantastic people who made Can-Am very special to us all. As a fitting climax to this series and as a testimony of recognition to the engineering excellence of the cars and team during this series, Britain’s most prestigious transport award, the Henry Segrave Memorial Trophy was awarded to McLaren Racing. Four medallions were officially presented - to Bruce and to Denny and to Tyler Alexander and myself (Cary Taylor) as Chief Engineers on the winning cars.
Can-Am Series 1970
For this season I would return to the UK around April, after having raced my own Brabham BT21 car in the NZ National Gold Star Series of races during the summer.
My negotiated contract for 1970 was again the responsibility for Denny’s car build program and race preparation for 6 out of the 10 race series.
Because I wanted to be back in NZ earlier this year to race my own car again, Jimmy Stone would take over my responsibilities for the series remainder. The two M8D cars being built up followed a very similar pattern of the previous years, with everything being pretty much on target to have the first car finished about two weeks before the June series start at Mosport.
June 2nd 1970
I could never have imagined what a tragic day this would be and the profound effect it would have on all of us at McLaren Racing. Later in the evening after the initial shock and numbness of the days event, a meeting was called at Teddy Mayer’s house to reassess our future position.
All of us there voted unanimously that we would continue with our project to contest the upcoming Can-Am season (now only two weeks away) as a memorial to Bruce. The physical and mental effort required to do this was overwhelmingly enormous, however it was achieved with everybody working tirelessly in an almost robotic way.
Through my years of motor racing I was always personally close to Denny and although I knew that Bruce’s death had affected him more than perhaps any of us, I will always be grateful for the support he gave me at this time. Additionally his leadership shown to the team and his gritty drive with burnt hands at the first Can-Am race showed us all his clear determination to keep McLaren Racing alive. The 1970 series as you can imagine just wasn’t the same, but with little time to reflect we soon settled into our familiar work load and proceeded to get on with the job of winning. Our task of car preparation and traveling was made somewhat easier with the establishment of the far more centrally located McLaren engine shop in Detroit. This served as our home base for the series and the facilities we had in this shop for engine development work and our race preparation of the cars was excellent. In what seemed like no time at all, four months and six races had been and gone - my contract was finished and it was time for me to head home to NZ. After all we had been through it felt uncomfortable to be leaving a job half done and I also knew that with the mixed results we had achieved so far, a series win for Denny would be no easy task. History records that Denny won the 1970 series, achieved against almost impossible odds by a totally dedicated team and a fitting tribute to the man who made it all possible.
McLaren Racing 1974
My association with McLaren Racing was not quite over. I had arrived back in the UK late in 1973 ( on holiday I thought ) to show my wife Laraine some of the places and maybe I suppose, some of the circuits that I apparently kept talking about! I suppose it was inevitable that I had to go and see the lads at the factory and guess what the greeting was - “you are just the guy we need!”
For the 1974 F1 season McLaren was committed to running two separate independent teams. A two car team for Hulme and Fittipaldi with new sponsorship from Texaco, together with a one car team with Mike Hailwood driving under the old Yardley sponsorship. The outcome of my so called ‘quick visit’ to the factory to say “Hi’, was an agreement that I would be responsible for the Yardley Team on the understanding that Laraine be allowed to travel with me. Mike’s race placings were mostly mid field but it was enjoyable with plenty of hard work keeping the car running. He unfortunately crashed heavily at Nurburgring breaking an ankle and Jochen Mass was called in to finish the seasons driving duties.
As the 1974 season progressed the increased pressure of running two independent teams under one roof and the possibility of a championship win for Emerson stretched factory personnel, resources and loyalties to the limit. Denny however in his last F1 driving year was happy to avoid the media, hiding out in our Yardley transporter, preferring one of Laraine’s home made sandwiches to the corporate lunch happening in the Texaco camp.
What a season - McLaren Racing were F1 World Champions, Indianapolis Speedway Winners, Emerson Fittipaldi took the Drivers Title and Denny retired.
I look back now with tremendous pride at having had the opportunity of being involved in this period of McLaren motor racing history and additionally to have worked alongside Denny and Bruce, two of the finest ambassadors in world motor racing that New Zealand will ever have.
Cary underneath Denny Hulme's M8A
Photograph by Tom Patterson, Racing Photography, USA
A great detailed photo of the Denny Hulme M8A.Cary Taylor is lying on the ground under the rear of the M8. This photo is of particular interest as this is the Trust Car that is currently under restoration. One very important detail for the restoration was gained from this photo and proves the theory of every photo being of value.