5 March 1940|
Wellington, New Zealand
|Formula One World Championship career|
|First entry||1973 British Grand Prix|
|Last entry||1973 British Grand Prix|
Graham McRae (born 5 March 1940) is a former racing driver from New Zealand. He achieved considerable success in Formula 5000 racing, winning the Tasman Series each year from 1971 to 1973, and also the 1972 L&M Continental 5000 Championship in the United States.
McRae's single outing in the Formula One World Championship was at the 1973 British Grand Prix on 14 July 1973, where he retired in the first lap. McRae also competed in the 1973 Indianapolis 500, finishing in 16th position and earning Rookie of the Year.
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McRae was born in Wellington. A qualified engineer, McRae competed in local sports car racing and hillclimbs in the early 1960s, notably at Levin and began to compete seriously in the 1.5 twin cam formula, which used old F3 chassis. After running a dated Brabham chassis, McRae built a slim, McRae, National Formula car which dominated the 68-69 series, beating talented opponents in David Oxton, Ken Smith and Bert Hawthorne. He also ran in the four NZ rounds of the Tasman Series, and McRae proved surprisingly competitive at the tight Levin circuit where McRae, 160 hp down on power qualified 1.8 seconds slower than Jochen Rindt and almost equalled the time of GLTL Team Leader Graham Hill in a mishandling Lotus 49. This performance secured McRae the NZ Driver to Europe scholarship for a few 1969 F2 races where he ran in the upper midfield in an ageing Brabham BT23.
Before entering Formula One, McRae placed sixth in both the 1970 Guards European Formula 5000 Championship and the 1971 Rothmans European Formula 5000 Championship. He won a number of rounds, but was hindered by some accidents, one serious, and impatience which earned him the nickname, 'Cassius' (after the boxing champion) reflecting his strut and belief in the greatness of his own talent. Fields were strong in European F5000 at this time and McRae was competing against former F1 drivers Brian Redman, Trevor Taylor, Mike Hailwood and Frank Gardner, all world class drivers and Peter Gethin and Howden Ganley in works backed McLarens. McRae was Tasman Series Champion three years in a row, from 1971 to 1973, also taking the US F5000 Championship crown in 1972, with three race wins. The US 5000 championship win in 1972 was a noted achievement against competent F5000 and World Championship sports car drivers David Hobbs and Sam Posey and McRae won a lot of money and laurels, and drove with control despite also competing in the 1972 Rothmans European Formula 5000 Championship, in which he placed third. In the combined F1/F5000 International Trophy, McRae finished 7th, the first F5000 car and for a while had run ahead of Graham Hill in a F1 Brabham BT34 and kept up with the F1 McLarens of Denny Hulme and Peter Revson, this reflected the very good race car set up skills of McRae on his Leda F5000. McRae would probably have got a regular F1 drive if he hadn't been a difficult customer and probably too old at 32 in most teams' eyes to be developed as a serious F1 driver. He was offered a drive in F1 at Nivelles when Jackie Stewart suffered an ulcer, but could not fit it into his demanding programme. He did race for Frank Williams in the British GP the following year but it was an uncompetitive chassis, and a good start was ruined by the multi-car crash which stopped the race after a lap.
In 1973 he faced much stronger competition in US F5000 with F1 drivers James Hunt and Jody Scheckter having far better financed efforts and more support. McRae drove well in European F5000 that year, but with just one win at Mallory Park. 1974 was McRae's last good year and despite lack of finance and contractual disputes over his new McRae GM2 and its Talon derivative, McRae finished 8th in the US F5000 series and would have been 5th if he had not lost 3rd place with tyre failure at Las Vegas, where he was running ahead of Unser. After writing off the GM2 in practice for the Oran Park, the Tasman round at the start of 1975, McRae contested the US F5000 National Travellers Cheque series, in a Lola T332 which showed promise in the heats, finishing 4th behind J.P Jarier at Watkins Glen and 2nd in a heat at Laguna Seca to Al Unser, ahead of Warwick Brown and qualifying 8th at Long Beach, but never finished better than 8th in the main race during the series. McRae debuted his new GM3 at the last US F5000 race in Riverside in 1976, and retired from midfield. The car featured Perspex windows in the cockpit (like the Tyrrell P34), so the spectators could watch Graham at the wheel. But with the US F5000 regulations being changed to require the cars to carry Can Am sports car bodies, McRae took a year to revise the GM3 and unsponsored he couldn't pay for competitive engines and privateer competition against the Haas or Paul Newman teams was hopeless. In 1978, he won his fifth F5000 title, the Australian Drivers' Championship.
In 1972 McRae, Malcolm Bridgland of Malaya Garage, and car designer Len Terry built a new F5000. The car was initially designated the Leda LT27 following Terry's designs. In mid-1972 McRae and London insurance broker John Heynes bought out Bridgland and set up a United Kingdom company McRae Cars Ltd at Poole, Dorset. As from 1 July 1972 the Leda LT27 was renamed the McRae GM1. Fourteen of these cars were built between 1972 and 1973. It achieved considerable success in the British Hill Climb Championship, driven by Roy Lane.
A one-off McRae GM2 was built in 1973 and the design was subsequently sold to Jack McCormack who built five examples under the name Talon. A single GM3 followed in 1976 and this was later developed into the GM9 Can-Am car.
McRae followed this up in 1993 with a replica of the Porsche 356 Speedster. It was based around a 2.0-litre Porsche 914 with a five-speed gearbox. McRae had imported a Porsche 356 Speedster from Vintage Speedsters of California to make the moulds for his production kits. Being a technical perfectionist, McRae's Spyder is an accurate replica of original built by Porsche in 1954 and 1955. Some McRae Spyders are powered by a Subaru engine. In June 2000 McRae set up the New Zealand based McRae Cars Ltd. Since his illness in 2003 no more of these cars have been made and the existing 38 models are in high demand. The company was stuck off the register in June 2003.
Indy 500 results
Complete Formula One World Championship results
|1973||Frank Williams Racing Cars||Iso-Marlboro IR||Cosworth V8||ARG
Complete Formula One Non-Championship results
|1969||Graham McRae||Brabham BT21 F2||Lotus L4||ROC||INT||MAD
|1970||Graham McRae||McLaren M10B F5000||Chevrolet V8||ROC||INT
|1971||Graham McRae||McLaren M10B F5000||Chevrolet V8||ARG||ROC||QUE||SPR||INT||RIN||OUL
|1972||Crown Lynn Potteries||McRae GM1 F5000||Chevrolet V8||ROC
|1973||Graham McRae Racing||McRae GM1 F5000||Chevrolet V8||ROC
- McRae, www.oldracingcars.com Retrieved on 2 July 2013
- Porsche 356 Speedster Replica - Dave Bray, retrieved 1 February 2016
- Porsche Spyder – The James Dean Legend – 181, Eion Young, New Zealand Classic Car magazine, 16 October 2007
- New Zealande Companies Office - McRae Cars Limited - Registered number 1046252
- Upgrade moves F5000 racer up the starting grid, Steve Ross, Otago Daily Times, 13 February 2010
| Tasman Series
| Australian Grand Prix
1972 and 1973
| Indianapolis 500
Rookie of the Year
| Australian Grand Prix
| Australian Drivers' Championship