Photos courtesy of IMS
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s dominated the spectacular Can-Am race series. It's easy to forget that the innovative race car manufacturer also took a stab at Indy car racing with some good results.
Forty years ago on May 27, 1972, McLaren claimed its first victory at the with Mark Donohue behind the wheel of the Offenhauser-powered number 66 car entered by Penske. McLaren went on that year to become the only team in history to ever win at Indianapolis, in Formula 1 and 2 and in Can-Am in the same year.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of its first win at Indianapolis, McLaren will be participating in the second annual Celebration of Automobiles tomorrow (May 12) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield.
You'll find the 1972 winning McLaren M16B will be displayed along with other cars from the . "McLaren has a long and rich history in racing, especially in North America," explained Tony Joseph, Director, McLaren Automotive Inc. "We couldn't be more proud to celebrate the 40th anniversary of McLaren's first win at Indy within the same year we launch McLaren Automotive, our own dealer network and our first model, the MP4-12C."
Although it was a Penske-entered McLaren that won in 1972, McLaren's own factory team won in 1974 and 1976 with Johnny Rutherford driving. Officially 1976 was the last year an Offenhauser-powered car won , although the record books show that A.J Foyt won in 1977, driving his own Coyote car with a modified version of the engine but bearing his own name instead of Offenhauser.
McLaren captured one more record at Indy in 1977 when Penske's Tom Sneva, driving the Norton Spirit McLaren M24/Cosworth, became the first driver to qualify for the Indy 500 at more than 200 mph. His one-lap track record was 200.535 mph, which put him on the pole, but he managed only a second-place finish behind A.J. Foyt.
Here's more trivia for you – McLaren's win in 1976 was the last time a car (not just the engine) bearing the name of a manufacturer of road-going cars won the Indy 500. In fact McLaren is one of only five current manufacturers of road-going cars to have ever won Indy. The others being Lotus, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot.