Racing legend's family cements special link to a small corner of Glenavy

WHEN you think of the world-beating McLaren racing team, a small family farm in Glenavy is perhaps not the first place that leaps to mind.

Yet there is a special connection, which has been cemented this week with a special gift from the daughter of the man who created the F1 behemoth.

Amanda McLaren, Ambassador for the McLaren Motor Racing Company, has presented a very special Maori Doll to the Ulster New Zealand Trust.

This doll will be displayed at the Trust’s Ballance House museum and events centre in Glenavy, which is currently being revamped to reopen later this year.

Local link

This was the birthplace of John Ballance - a local man who certainly went on to make his mark on the world stage.

As New Zealand Prime Minister in the 1890s this liberal Ulsterman helped ensure the franchise was extended to Maoris and women - making it the first nation in the world to give females the vote.

Amanda McLaren personally selected Ballance House to display this doll, because her famous father, racing driver and car designer Bruce McLaren, was from Auckland.

Better still, his first racing car was an Austin 7 Ulster!

Bruce moved to the UK and founded the McLaren Motor Racing Company, which continues to compete successfully at the very highest level in this sport.

Tragedy

Sadly Bruce McLaren did not live to see the global powerhouse his company would become.

He died, aged just 32, when his Can-Am car crashed on the Lavant Straight just before Woodcote corner at Goodwood Circuit in England on 2 June 1970.

He had been testing the vehicle when the rear bodywork came adrift at speed. The loss of aerodynamic downforce destabilised the car, which spun, left the track, and hit a bunker used as a flag station.

“Dad was killed doing what he loved,” said Amanda.

“Mum protected me from the trauma of his death at the time and I’m incredibly proud of what my father achieved in such a short lifetime.”

Legacy

He continues to cast a huge shadow over motorsport and his legacy lives on.

The team Bruce McLaren founded in 1963 would continue on after his death and win eight Constructors' Championships and 12 Drivers' Championships in Formula One.

For the 2021 season the McLaren F1 drivers will be Lando Norris, 21, from the UK and 31-year-old Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

The team Bruce McLaren founded in 1963 would continue on after his death and win eight Constructors’ Championships and 12 Drivers’ Championships in Formula One.

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