Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen has respected his country’s motor racing heritage by acknowledging a significant landmark alongside his victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour.
Overcoming technical difficulties and a late penalty, Van Gisbergen posted his third major win as a McLaren factory driver, adding to a pair of successes in last year’s Blancpain Endurance Series.
The Bathurst win coincides with the 50th anniversary since his compatriots Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon claimed the greatest prize in sports car racing – the Le Mans 24 Hour.
It also came on a weekend when Patty McLaren, who married Bruce in 1961, died.
McLaren started what has become one of the most successful grand prix teams in history in 1966 with the operation also building and racing iconic Can-Am cars.
The English-based concern continued after McLaren’s tragic death while testing one of his Can-Am cars at Goodwood in 1970, with the squad becoming one of the most iconic F1 teams of all-time.
McLaren has increased its construction of road cars and competition cars in recent years through its GT3 program.
The company has this year joined forces with Gold Coast-based Tekno Autosports, which will campaign three McLarens in the Australian GT Championship.
“I know all the history and a Kiwi in a McLaren is a very cool thing,” van Gisbergen told Speedcafe.com.
“Also unfortunately Denny Hulme (Kiwi’s only F1 World Champion in 1967) is no longer with us but he was a legend here also.”
Hulme was part of the Frank Gardner-run BMW operation when he suffered a fatal heart attack during the 1992 Bathurst 1000.
“To win a race like that with the McLaren name as a Kiwi is awesome,” continued Van Gisbergen.
“I’m pretty proud of McLaren and also the Kiwis.
“I’m pumped for all the team. McLaren is just getting bigger worldwide.
“It’s a good reputation for the brand to add the 12 Hour to the list and hopefully there is more.”
Tekno Autosports McLaren team boss and Van Gisbergen’s co-driver Jono Webb also paid homage to the significance of the Kiwi/McLaren connection co-inciding with the Le Mans anniversary.
“There’s obviously that New Zealand connection. Shane has been with the factory team for a little while now,” Webb said.
“And for a Kiwi to win a major race in a McLaren on the 50th anniversary is pretty awesome.
“It’s a great start to our relationship with McLaren GT and we wanted to put on a good show this weekend to show them what we could do.”
McLaren Technology Group Chairman and chief executive Ron Dennis paid tribute to the widow of the company’s founder.
“It was with great sadness that I heard the news that Patty McLaren had passed away,” Dennis said in a statement.
“Patty was a wonderful woman, and, over the 46 years that have elapsed since Bruce’s death in a testing accident at Goodwood in the summer of 1970, she has always remained close to the company that bears her husband’s name.
“She was especially resolute in the period immediately after Bruce’s accident, inspiring ‘my boys’, as she used to refer to the men who made up the grief-stricken team, not only to keep McLaren alive but also to make it successful.
“We have therefore lost not only a great lady but also a direct link to our company’s origins.
“On behalf of all 3000 of us at McLaren, I therefore pay tribute to Patty and offer our heartfelt condolences to her family and many friends.
“May she rest in peace.”