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Denny Hulme

Hulme head.jpg
Denny Hulme
Nationality 22px-Flag of New Zealand.png New Zealander
Years 1965 - 1974
Team(s) Brabham, McLaren
Races 112
Championships 1
Wins 8
Podiums 33
Poles 1
Fastest laps 9
First race 1965 Monaco Grand Prix
First win 1965 Monaco Grand Prix
Last win 1974 Argentine Grand Prix
Last race 1974 United States Grand Prix


Denis Clive "Denny" Hulme (June 18, 1936 - October 4, 1992) was the 1967 Formula One World Champion, whilst driving for the Brabham team. Hulme, later went on to race for McLaren in Formula One, before retiring from top-level single seater racing - instead becoming a hero in CanAm and subsequently Australian Touring Cars. Hulme's untimely death, caused by a heart attack whilst driving a BMW M3 during the Bathurst 1000 - made him the first Formula One Champion to die of natural causes.

Early Racing Career

Born and raised on a tabacco farm belonging to his parents in Moteuka on South Island, New Zealand - Denny Hulme, left school - went to work in a garage and saved up enough money to buy an MG TF, promptly entering this in hillclimbing events. After making impressive progress, he purchased a Cooper-Climax - subsequently being chosen for the New Zealand Driver to Europe. Once there, he worked as a mechanic in Jack Brabham's garage in Chessington and began to pave his way on his motor-racing path.

In 1961, he appeared at Le Mans for the Abarth team, before the late great Ken Tyrrell invited the likeable New Zealander to race in his Formula 2 team. After some impressive performances there, it was he old boss Jack Brabham who gave Hulme the call - and he joined the Australian legends' F2 team. The pair, set about dominating the Championship that year resulting in a one-two finish in the European Championship.

Formula One (1965-1966)

After making numorous appearances, in non-championship events for Brabham - Denny finally got the call he'd been waiting for, making his World Championship debut in 1965 at the famed Monza circuit in Italy. Later that year, he scored his first points, for fourth position at the daunting Clermont-Ferrand (Charade) circuit in France.

1966 proved to be Hulme's first full season of Formula One, now - after the departure of Dan Gurney - as the outright number two at Brabham behind Jack himself. Finishing a fine fourth that year, the highlights came a third place at Reims in France, a second behind Brabham at Brands Hatch - and the fastest lap at Zandvoort, before ignition problems put paid to his race there.

Denny Hulme - Formula One World Champion 1967

The 1967 Championship, was essentially an internal affair within the Brabham team for most of the year, but the new Lotus 49 gave Jim Clark and Graham Hill the opportunity to bite back. But two wins in the eleven race Championship, at Monte Carlo and the ferocious Nurburging (the Green Hell) - and a series of strong points finishes - gave Hulme the advantage and he won the Championship by five points from Brabham, and a further 5 from Jim Clark - hence Hulme was the first (and to date, only) Formula One World Champion from New Zealand.

1. Denny Hulme: Brabham-Repco 51 points 2. Jack Brabham: Brabham-Repco 46 points 3 . Jim Clark: Lotus 49-Ford 41 points 4 . Chris Amon: Ferrari 20 points 4 . John Surtees: Honda 20 points


Formula One (1968-1974)

1968 saw a move to the McLaren team, owned by fellow Kiwi Bruce McLaren. The South African race, held at the legendary Kyalami circuit - proved difficult for the team, having to use the old BRM V12 engines on an old M5A chassis, however - Denny brought it home a credible 5th.

By the Spanish round at Jarama, the awesome Cosworth V8 engine was installed in the brand new M7A chassis - and the good times rolled. At the Spanish round, Hulme picked up second before taking two more wins that year at Monza and in Canada - leaving him with an outside chance of retaining the Championship crown, against Graham Hill - and the young Jackie Stewart.

The finale, in Mexico City would determine the champion that year - but unfortunately for Denny it wasn't him, robbed by a suspension failure on his Mclaren.

1969 was a disaster for Hulme, the revised M7A chassis struggled with reliabilty and Hulme managed only 20 points, attaining one victory - ironically in light of the previous season's events, at the final round in Mexico. Hulme ended up the season in sixth position in the driver's standings.

1970 brought a new decade, but Hulme's luck didn't change. Team-Boss and great friend, Bruce McLaren was killed whilst testing the Cam-Am McLaren M8D, which affected Denny. Another problem occured that year, when he severely burned his hands from methanol - after a shunt in qualifying for the legendary Indy 500. As a result, he missed the Dutch Grand Prix in 1970 - but undeterred, Hulme still managed a credible fourth in the Championship - with 27 points.

1971 - started with a bang. At Kyalami, he lead dominantly - but the rising rate suspension system forced him out, after only a few races - the McLaren team were in disarray. Hulme set the fastest laps in Canada and the United States that year - but hard results were hard to come by. Denny ended up ninth in the standings for '71.

Beauty, fragrance and men's products company "Yardley" took over title sponsorship of a new McLaren in 1972, and it paid dividends for Denny. Partenered with good friend Peter Revson, Denny was back on winning ways taking victory in South Africa, and a few fine podiums elsewhere - thus finishing 1972 in third place - with 39 points.

Amazingly - Hulme only ever scored one pole position in his F1 career, and 1973 was the year it occured at Kyalami, it must be said - he appeared to have a good relationship with the South African venue. However, Hulme was outshone by friend and team-mate Peter Revson in '73, and he finished a place down on the American in sixth - 12 points adrift.

He and Revson, had built up a strong friendship, off the back of thier F1 comraderie - they also competed together in the Can-Am series. When, Revson left McLaren at the end of 1973, to join Shadow - Hulme would have been disapointed.

So, it was after the Brazilian Grand Prix in which Denny finished in twelfth place - that testing at Kyalami commenced. However, Revson - in the Shadow lost control of his car - before veering head-on into the barriers - Hulme, on the scene tried in vain to safe his friends life - but to no avail, after the accident Hulme announced that he would see out 1974, before retired from Grand Prix racing. However, other than winning the Argentine event and coming home second in Austria - Denny didn't really make much of an impact on the season, and he retired dignified at the end of the year.

His F1 career was over.


Can-AM (1966-1972)

Hulme's debut season in the Cam-Am series, heralded no points but the year after - (in the year of his F1 Championship win) - Hulme came home second in the series, behind team-leader Bruce McLaren.

Hulme's first Can-Am championship, came his way in 1968 - taking victories at Elkhardt Lake, Edmonton and in Las Vegas - notching up a total of 35 points.

1969, saw the McLaren team dominate the series. Hulme scored 5 victories, to eventually come home second again behind McLaren - this time on 160 points.

In 1970, he took his second Can-Am title - the loveable, quiet - media shy Kiwi took the title in difficult circumstances - as the team mourned the loss of Bruce McLaren, testing a new Can-Am car at Goodwood. Hulme took the championship, with 132 points - more than double the amount that second placed - Lothar Motschenbacher totalled.

In 1971, another of Hulme's good friends - Peter Revson took the Can-Am crown, with Denny in second.

And, in his final Cam-Am year, he took a record 22nd series victory - before the team bowed out of the series. Hulme, ended up second in the competition with 65 points.


Indy 500

Denny Hulme competed in the famous Indy 500 event on five occasions; 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971. His best results in the event, came in '67 and '68 each time finishing fourth. He did not compete in the 1970 race, due to methanol burns to the hands, after a crash in qualifying.


After F1

After leaving the sport, Hulme lead the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers' Association) for a brief period - but, the cut and thrust nature of the post was ill-suited to Hulme's gentlemanly nature and he didn't fill the post for very long. He then retired to New Zealand, returning to Touring Cars in the early 1980's, driving for the concern of the well travelled Scot, Tom Walkinshaw. Racing for his Austin Rover team in the European Touring Car Championship.


Death

A favourite event of Hulme's, was the Bathurst 1000 - held on the famous Mount Panorama track in Australia. In the 1992 edition of the event, he was sharing a Benson & Hedges sponsored BMW M3 with Paul Morris. After complaining of blurred vision, on the laps previous - Hulme suffered a massive heart attack at the wheel whilst travelling down the 200mph Conrod Straight. After veering into the wall on the left side of the track, he managed - in his dying moments to bring the car to a relatively controlled stop on the opposite side of the course. Once marshalls had reached the scene, they found Hulme - still strapped in, dead. He died doing what he loved most - racing, he was always a shy man - who never basked in glory, but instead was fair, subtle - and motivated by mechanics. He was a gentle giant - who for many years showed just why his deft touch, and excellent car control - left him well deserved of his F1 crown in 1967. Denny Hulme, was a true Champion - and one, who tragically is often overlooked. Formula One, could do with more characters like Denny these days.

External links

"Follow The Bear" - a personal memoir of Hulme

Supercars NZ Official Website


Formula One World Drivers' Champions
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