Mosport, Canada is a rustic Toronto suburb just on the outskirts of Hurricane Beulah. Denis Hulme and Bruce McLaren are a pair of fast-moving New Zealanders whose hobby is collecting North American money. Last week they carried off a truckload as Hulme won the Player's 200 sports car race in a car built by McLaren, and Bruce himself finished second in a twin of the winning car. Hulme got so far ahead of everybody else that he drove the last lap with a fiat tire—at a mere 75 mph—and they still couldn't catch him. There is every chance they won't catch him until some time next year, if ever.
That thought depresses the big names who have been snarling along after Hulme and McLaren, because the fall Canadian-American series has become one of the richest and most glamorous runs of all time, worth $460,000 this year. Mosport was the third of six events—and Hulme's third victory.
Everybody who was anybody in road racing was there for a crack at Hulme. They rolled into Canada with low, fat, brutish Group 7 racers—which means 500-hp, mid-engined monsters that loaf along at 175 mph on straightaways and take corners with such lumbering ferocity that bystanders flinch. The drivers hide themselves so far in the bowels of the cars that only their knuckles and the tops of their helmets are visible.
The racers had to blast 80 times around a 2.45-mile circuit boasting nine tight turns and two faster bends, over punishing bumps and through black woods that figured to be full of grizzlies.
Track officials had calculated there was room for 30 cars all mixing it up at once out on the course. They got together a crowd of 23,978 to watch the show. (Only 16,000 of them paid. Everybody else sneaked in through the forest.) By Saturday, after much rain from Beulah's northern backlash and some wild banging around in practice, only 26 cars were ready for Denny, and when he got through with them only 15 were still running.
Not that he won laughing. On the first loop around he lost control at full bore, and skittered sideways and backwards through a few turns. Then, with a lap and a half to go, 30 seconds ahead of the pack, he did it again. This time he gouged out a sandbank, redesigning the left side of the car, and popped a tire. By the time he got all straightened around the car was spewing sparks, smoke and a few bolts and trailing the pungent smell of burning fiber glass. "But, no matter," he said afterward, mountainously calm. "I would have driven it that last lap even if the wheel had come off. You can do that with my balanced chassis, you know."
Now, everybody knows it is impossible for two poor little Kiwis to find wealth and happiness among all the sharks assembled for the Can-Am series—Dan Gurney, Jim Hall and Mario Andretti, to name three—so it is instructive to take a look at the reasons why.
Hulme is 33, a giant, bulldog-jawed man who posed for years as a quiet, mild-mannered mechanic for a frequent world champion, Jack Brabham, until Jack discovered he could really drive those cars. And so, all of a sudden. Hulme becomes Indy's Rookie of the Year, takes the point lead for the 1967 world championship and starts running away with the Can-Am.
McLaren, a gentle, fragile, 30-year-old who began racing 14 years ago, said: "It was a natural combination. As far back as 1964 I bought an old Cooper Formula I car from your American, Roger Penske. We chopped it about a bit, then put an Oldsmobile engine in it. But I learned an important thing: it is wise to concentrate on one or two forms of racing instead of flitting about. When the Can-Am series took shape two years ago, I began getting ready solely for this."
McLaren got ready with a vengeance. He 1) spotted Hulme and signed him; 2) designed a car for each of them ( Hulme's is two inches longer, the only concession to his hulk); and 3) got Goodyear and Shell so enthusiastic about the project that they put together what is considered one of the sweetest support contracts in racing. "It costs $150,000 a year to run my factory," McLaren says. "Now we have several people interested in our car. We have orders for about 10 of them."