Graham McRae passed away today.
He was aged 81.
McRae will forever be remembered as one of New Zealand’s most successful drivers and race car builders.
A three-time champion of the Tasman Series, champion in the 1972 SCCA Continental 5000 series and multiple Australian Grand Prix victor, McRae seemingly won every Formula 5000 crown there was available to him.
Almost all of his success came in a car bearing his name.
McRae began building race cars as soon as he had graduated from university.
His first self-built car was a Maserarri sports car, which he competed in local hillclimb events.
McRae won the NZ Driver to Europe scholarship for a few races in the 1969 Formula 2 championship.
In Europe, McRae acquired British racing car constructor Leda and renamed the company McRae Cars Ltd.
Leda had already begun constructing the Leda LT27 F5000 machine before McRae renamed the car the GM1.
The GM1 took the racing world by storm, and McRae’s ingenious design meant the GM1 was a top car in nearly every race it entered.
A less successful GM2 followed, as did a unique GM3, which had Perspex cockpit surrounds and allowed spectators to see the driver at his work.
The GM3 subsequently paved the way for McRae to make a brief appearance in Can-Am racing.
McRae would also make one Formula 1 appearance over his career.
The Wellingtonian was called up to drive for the Frank Williams Racing Cars team at the 1973 British Grand Prix.
It would be a short-lived Grand Prix debut for McRae, however, as the throttle on Williams IR01-Ford became stuck open on the opening lap, forcing him to retire.
Still, some people believe that had McRae been given a real chance in F1, he may have become a world champion.
1973 also saw McRae contest the Indianapolis 500, finishing 16th and earning rookie of the year.
McRae leaves behind an indelible legacy in New Zealand motor racing.
He proved that Kiwis could compete at the highest level and do so in their own race cars.
We will never forget you, Graham.