Bruce McLaren – 1967 Porsche 910/8 2195cc Prototype Sports Car
The Shell Oil Competition Department in England arranged for Bruce McLaren to drive a 1967 Porsche 910, chassis 28, in the BOAC International 500 mile race held at Brands Hatch on 30th July 1967. The race was Round 5 of the International Manufacturers Championship for Prototypes of unlimited capacity. Entered as a driver for the ‘works’ team, ‘Porsche System Engineering’, Bruce was the co-driver to Jo Siffert in one car of a five-car ‘works’ Team. The Team entered two Porsche 910s and one 907 fitted with the Flat 8 2195cc engine in the Group 6 Class for Prototype Sports Cars over 2000cc, and two 910s with Flat 6 1991cc engines in the Group 6 Class for Prototype Sports Cars with 1300-2000cc engines. There were also three 906 6 cylinder 1991cc private entries in the Group 4 Class for Sports Cars 1300 to 2000cc. Thirty five cars started the race and nineteen were classified to have finished.
Jo Siffert qualified the Siffert/Bruce McLaren # 11 Porsche 910 in 8th position on the start grid. Fastest qualifier was the white and green #4 5.4 litre Sid Taylor owned Lola T70 Mk3GT driven by Kiwi Denny Hulme and Aussie Jack Brabham, with John Surtees and David Hobbs in the red #2 5.7 litre Lola T70 second fastest. In third position was the white #1 7.0 litre Chaparral 2F V8 Chev, sporting a big high rear wing, and driven by Phil Hill and Mike Spence. Fellow Kiwi, Chris Amon, with co-driver Jackie Stewart in a works #6 Ferrari 330P4 V12 3977cc qualified 6th.
Bruce and Jo were allowed (by the Team) only 5 laps each in qualifying. Bruce was caught behind slow traffic in his 5-lap session and Jo had a cleaner run, thus recording a faster qualifying time. Jo elected to start the race while Bruce watched. After the start, John Surtees in his Lola T70 led initially until he stopped to have the fuel pressure adjusted. Paul Hawkins then lead in the #8 Ferrari 330P4 until Denny Hulme got through and opened up a big lead before he stopped with a broken rocker in the engine. By now the Hill/Spence Chaparral was in front but as the bigger-engined cars came in for their first pit stops, Siffert took the lead in the Porsche 910/8 until, after some 2 hours in the driver’s seat, he handed over to Bruce. After refuelling and servicing was completed, Bruce had dropped to second place. Bruce soon discovered the brakes in the 910 needed a lot of pumping so he gave up any attempt to keep up with the much more powerful Chaparral.
Without good brakes Bruce drove the 910 with great care over the next two hours and after an exciting dice with Jochen Rindt driving a Porsche 907 chassis 13 (the 910 chassis 027 Rindt shared with Graham Hill had retired with valve problems in the engine), Bruce handed the 910 back to Siffert with only some two hours to run of the 6 hour race. The Hill/Spence Chaparral finished the race in first position, followed 58 second later by the Chris Amon/Jackie Stewart #6 Ferrari. In third place, and 2 laps behind the leader, was the #11 Siffert/McLaren Porsche 910/8 chassis 028, and in 4th place, 5 laps behind the leader was the Hans Herrmann/Jochen Neerspatch Porsche 907 LH/007 2195cc.
In his column in Autosport magazine of 11 August 1967, Bruce records the 1967 BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch as “The biggest and best line-up of GT sports cars and drivers ever seen in England”. Bruce said he settled in to the Porsche team right away. He said his briefing was ‘brief’ – “Get in. Press brake. Get out!” After testing the cars, Bruce said to the Chief Engineer he thought the Porsche 910 with the 6 cylinder engine handled better than the 910 with the slightly heavier 8 cylinder engine; in his reply to Bruce, the German Chief Engineer said “Za handling is OK – just more difficult to drive, ja ? So ve haf za Grand Prix drivers….[in the 8 cylinder cars]”!
This appears to have been the only race Bruce had in a Porsche. Bruce had won the 1966 Le Mans 24 hour in a Ford GT40 with Chris Amon, shared the win with Mario Andretti of the 1967 Sebring 12 Hour race in the big Ford GT40 Mark 4, in addition to driving his ‘big banger’ McLaren sports cars that he drove in UK and in the Can-Am series. After all the power of these big cars, Bruce said he thought the Porsches were fun to drive, but he “didn’t go so far to say they handled well, particularly the eight-cylinder….. The six-cylinder was perfectly OK to drive but the eight-cylinder had a pulse to it that really got to your ears, even with ear plugs, cotton wool and then your crash helmet over the top.”
NZ Festival of Motor Racing celebrating Porsche – January 2016
Kiwi Porsche Racers
By Jim Barclay