Died, F1 Legend

Denny Hulme

New Zealand

  • Motueka, New Zealand Place of Birth
  • 18 June 1936 Date of Birth
  • 1965 Monaco Grand Prix F1 Debut
  • McLaren Current/Last Team

Denny Hulme’s aversion to fame and preference for anonymity made him one of the most understated champions. He hated the spotlight, showed no trace of vanity, and found social functions torturous. Nicknamed ‘The Bear’ for his rugged looks and gruff demeanour, which could flare up when provoked, Hulme was also a sensitive man who struggled to express his feelings—except when behind the wheel, where he was a skilled, if unflashy, driver. Tragically, he died doing what he loved a quarter-century after becoming an F1 drivers’ champion.

NationalityNew Zealander
BornDenis Clive Hulme
18 June 1936
Motueka, New Zealand
Died4 October 1992 (aged 56)
Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia

Denny’s father, Clive Hulme, was a World War II hero, awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery as a sniper in the fierce battle on Crete. Upon returning home to Te Puke on New Zealand’s North Island, Clive ran a small farm and a trucking business. Born on June 18, 1936, Denny learned to drive a truck on his father’s land and was driving solo by age six. As a boy, he preferred trout fishing, hunting, or working on his father’s trucks. At 17, he left school to become a mechanic and truck driver, hauling cargo over New Zealand’s winding roads. During these journeys, he dreamed of racing, imagining himself as Stirling Moss or other European stars he had seen in New Zealand’s Tasman Series.

Denny’s early competitions involved driving skill tests and local races in an MGTF, then an MGA, bought by his father. In 1959, Clive and Denny purchased an F2 Cooper, which Denny prepared and raced—often in his bare feet for a better pedal feel. He performed well enough to share New Zealand’s Driver to Europe scholarship with George Lawton, funding a season of racing abroad in 1960. In London, they were helped by fellow Kiwi Bruce McLaren, then a rising Formula One star. Their debut year together in Europe ended tragically when Lawton died in a race at Roskilde, Denmark, dying in Denny’s arms. Though devastated, Denny persevered, travelling Europe with his girlfriend Greeta, a nurse who later became his wife and mother of their two children. To fund his racing, Denny worked as a mechanic for Jack Brabham, who also gave him driving opportunities in Brabham sportscars and single-seaters. In 1963, Denny won seven Formula Junior races, and the following year, he supported Brabham in dominating the F2 series. Their Formula One partnership began in 1965, and in 1966, when Brabham won the drivers’ title in 1966, Denny finished fourth.

The 1967 Brabham-Repcos were not the fastest, but they were reliable and consistent. Hulme and Brabham, both known for their serious work ethic and brevity, shared a unique rapport. Fellow Antipodean Chris Amon noted, “Jack and Denny didn’t talk much at the best of times, but in 1967, conversation became almost non-existent.”

Denny silenced critics with an impressive win in Monaco despite the tragic accident that claimed Lorenzo Bandini’s life. His second win, at Germany’s Nurburgring, showcased his versatility. He finished on the podium in six other races and accumulated enough points to become the 1967 Drivers’ World Champion, a title even Jim Clark, who had more race wins, respected. On the podium in Mexico, Clark graciously invited the embarrassed Hulme to share the victor’s laurel wreath.

Despite his success, Denny wore his crown uneasily and disliked the attention. He had a soft, sentimental side few saw, often clashing with journalists, who twice awarded him their ‘Lemon Prize’ for being the least cooperative driver. He believed in speaking his mind, which sometimes made him abrasive. In 1968, he joined forces with Bruce McLaren, his countryman, preferring racing to fame.

The ‘Bruce and Denny Show’ dominated the North American Can-Am series but was less successful in Formula One. Their partnership ended in 1970 when Bruce died testing a Can-Am McLaren at Goodwood. Denny, inconsolable, continued racing out of loyalty to Bruce and the team. His career was marred by a severe hand burn in 1970, and his competitive spirit waned as he grew increasingly wary of the sport’s dangers. The final blow came in 1974 when he witnessed Peter Revson’s fatal crash. Denny retired from Formula One that year but continued competitive driving for another 18 years.

He enjoyed historical events and was successful in saloon and truck racing, especially favouring Australia’s Bathurst 1000km race. During the 1992 race, Denny’s BMW stopped suddenly beside the track. Marshals found the 1967 World Champion dead inside, having suffered a heart attack.

Denny Hulme Formula One World Championship career

F1 Career1965–1974
TeamsBrabham, McLaren
Entries112
Championships1 (1967)
Wins8
Podiums33
Career points248
Pole positions1
Fastest laps9
First entry1965 Monaco Grand Prix
First win1967 Monaco Grand Prix
Last win1974 Argentine Grand Prix
Last entry1974 United States Grand Prix

Sources: Formula1.com and Wikipedia.com

Teammates

Driver Nationality Current/Last Team F1 Debut Status
Australian Brabham 1955 British Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
New Zealand McLaren 1958 German Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
Brazilian Fittipaldi 1970 British Grand Prix F1 Legend
South African Ferrari 1972 United States Grand Prix F1 Legend

Teams

Team Nationality Debut Season Status
Brabham British 1962 Historic
McLaren British 1966 Current