McLaren's iconic Can-Am racers reunite at Laguna Seca

McLaren Automotive has filmed some of McLaren's most powerful race cars tear up Laguna Seca in a Can-Am reunion

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Almost 50 years after McLaren’s history making 1969 season in which it won every race, a full grid of Canadian-American Challenge Cup cars, including eight McLarens, have reunited to race at Laguna Seca. McLaren Automotive caught the action on its YouTube channel, and profiled four of the historic vehicles bearing its name.

A McLaren M8F is the first car the video focuses on. The 1971 machine has a massive 8.1-litre Chevrolet V8 engine, produces 744hp at 5700rpm, and was originally driven by Denny Hulme, a Formula 1 and Can-Am champion. It’s finished in dark orange with blue detailing, similar to this year’s McLaren F1 car.

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The M8F has been restored by Tony Nicholson, who read about the car as a child, and feels ‘proud and honoured’ to keep classics such as the M8F running. He’s keen to point out the engineering challenge they pose.

‘F1 cars are much easier to work on than a Can-Am car. I worked on them for many years, and I thought I knew everything, and then I ran a Can-Am car and it just kept breaking. It took me a year to stop the car breaking. What those guys did in the old days, I am in awe of,’ he says in the video.

The second car profiled is Bruce Marquand’s 1967 McLaren M6A-3, originally entered by American racing behemoth Roger Penske and driven by Mark Donohue. The dark blue car, with yellow detailing, contains a 7.0L Chevy V8 and has a 700hp output at 6700rpm. According to Marquand it spins its wheel freely at high speed, meaning ‘you’ve got to watch how you push the pedal down’.

Confronting the famous downhill Corkscrew section of the Laguna Seca circuit is challenging in the M6A-3, as Marquand summarises: ‘A car made in 1967, with marginal brakes, no aerodynamics and 700hp. F1 cars make their horsepower at 11,000rpm, this thing makes it as soon as you touch the gas. It really makes you appreciate the drivers back in the day. It was all balls and skill really.’

A year after Marquand’s car was built, McLaren raced the M6B, which is now 50 years old. It has a 6.0L Chevy V8 and a power output of 600hp, and raced for one year in Can-Am. Owner Robert Ryan competes in it regularly now, and raced the car in New Zealand, the home country of Bruce McLaren.

McLaren’s own M6A, which he drove to victory at Laguna Seca in 1967, is currently raced by Richard Griot. It also has a 6.0L engine, but with a lower power output of 525hp, making it a more balanced car than its counterparts ‘It’s bizarre when you put yourself back in 1967. And that’s what the magic is here. I mean it’s Bruce McLaren’s car for crying out loud. You definitely feel the legacy of this car,’ summarises Griot.

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