Clive Hulme, father of the 1967 world champion, won a Victoria Cross at Anzio and, in essence, that is pretty much all you need to know about his son Denis Clive Hulme – “Denny” to most of his friends, and “The Bear” to those who got on the wrong side of him.
Denny was a tough old number by any objective standards. Legend has it that during his youth he was doing some welding in his father’s garage when he smelled burning. As it happened, he had trodden on a spark; but had smelled it before the burning sensation started to drill through the sole of his foot! Many years later he would bear the searing pain and discomfort of methanol burns to his hands – sustained while testing at Indianapolis when a fuel filler cap worked loose on the first McLaren Indycar – similarly without a murmur.
This tough New Zealander was, in oh-so-many ways, as big a contributor to the McLaren motor racing legend as the team founder Bruce McLaren. He drove only for Jack Brabham and Bruce throughout his F1 career and although he won his only title crown driving for Jack, he quickly made McLaren his home, relishing the image of two Kiwis against the world. He stayed with McLaren until the end of his career, although Bruce’s death in the summer of 1970 devastated his otherwise outwardly granite exterior. His final Grand Prix victory came at Buenos Aires in 1974 after an archetypal Hulme-style drive; taking things easy in the opening stages, conserving the car and then pressing home his attack when the opposition ran into trouble.
He retired at the end of the 1974 F1 season but would die at the wheel of a BMW touring car while racing at Bathurst some 18 years later.