New Zealand legend Graham McRae dies

McRae was one of New Zealand's great open-wheelers stars with a prolific career both as a driver and a car designer through the heyday of Formula 5000.

While he never had the international notoriety of countrymen such as Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon, he enjoyed significant success both down under in New Zealand and Australia, as well as the bigger stages of Europe and the US.

He won the 1970 New Zealand Gold Star, three straight Tasman Series titles between 1971 and 1973, the SCCA/USAC Formula 5000 Series in the USA in '72 and a number of races in the European F5000 Championship during the period.

There were also back-to-back Australian Grand Prix wins in 1972 and 1973.

Much of that success was achieved in a car bearing his own name. Having initially been involved with constructor Leda in England, McRae bought the company in 1972 and renamed it McRae Cars Ltd.

McRae raced the GM1 throughout 1972 and 1973, however the follow-up design, the GM2, wasn't as successful. McRae sold the rights to the car to Talon and the UK factory to Roger Penske in late 1973.

In 1976 McRae built the one-off GM3, which he used to win both the Australian Gold Star and the Australian Grand Prix in 1978.

He made a single Formula 1 world championship start for Williams at the British Grand Prix in 1973 but didn't make it through the first lap. He enjoyed more success in his sole Indy 500 appearance in that same year, where he finished 16th and was named Rookie of the Year.

McRae is part of MotorSport New Zealand's Wall of Fame and was last year honoured by S5000's Heritage Series.

 

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