He originally drove the 4WD F1 car in the 1969 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Bruce McLaren had many great motoring achievements in his life before succumbing to the sport in his 1970 crash at Goodwood. The four-wheel drive McLaren M9A Formula One car really wasn’t one of them. Yes, a few teams have experimented with such technology in the racing series over the years, notably through the 1960s. It was never that effective, and as aerodynamics were better understood and implemented, four-wheel drive’s traction advantage became a moot point until it was ultimately banned from competition in 1982.
Still, that doesn’t make this vintage McLaren any less awesome, or this touching video any less captivating to watch. That’s because racing legend Derek Bell drove this very car back in 1969 at the British Grand Prix, turning just six laps at Silverstone before retiring due to suspension problems. Bell would go on to have an incredibly successful racing career, but the M9A’s brief stint at Silverstone would be the only racing glory for the car. McLaren himself said driving it was like “trying to write your signature with someone constantly jogging your elbow,” so it was parked and never raced again.
48 years later, the vintage F1 car was reunited with the driver who originally occupied the seat for those six laps. To make it a proper reunion, man and machine once again took to the track at Silverstone last month as part of the Pure McLaren weekend. And as the video above demonstrates, it was positively glorious.
“There you are, driving this beautiful car that was a piece of art at the time, a sort-of technology advancement that never really worked,” said Bell of his return engagement with the M9A. “To be honest, I wasn’t going super fast because the engine is old and tired, but it was still sweet and crisp and wanted to go, and the car was really quite good.”
The whole video is most decidedly worth six minutes of your day, but if you are absolutely in a rush, you must at least enjoy the toe-curling soundtrack from 3:35 to 3:50. And for the record, Bell turned seven laps with the M9A at the Pure McLaren event – one more than the car originally did in competition back 1969.
We’re sure Bruce is smiling down about that.
Source: McLaren Automotive via YouTube