Häkkinen agrees to hustle famed McLaren ‘Batmobile’ around Laguna Seca

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Dan Gurney and Peter Gethin shared the 'Batmobile' McLaren during the 1970 Can-Am racing season | Laguna Seca photos

The Goodwood Festival of Speed isn’t the only vintage racing event that draws Formula One champions for some fast driving in famous cars. The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion has announced that two-time F1 champion Mika Häkkinen will be back on WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in August driving demonstration laps in the 1970 McLaren M8D/3 “Batmobile” Can-Am racer.

“This track is fun, really enjoyable,” Häkkinen is quoted in the track’s news release. “The track goes up and down, and some of the corners have great camber. It looks tighter than it is from a distance, so you need a lot of guts to brake later and take the right line.”

Häkkinen will be making his third consecutive visit to Laguna Seca in a vintage McLaren. In 2017 he drove a 1974 M23 and last year it was a 1995 F1 GTR.

David Hobbs (right) interviews Mika Häkkinen during Monterey Reunion visit

The M8D/3 originally was driven by Dan Gurney and Peter Gethin. Team founder Bruce McLaren had died in a crash during vehicle development laps, so racer Denny Hulme was joined at the start of the 1970 Can-Am campaign for three races by Gurney, who won twice, both times from the pole position, at Mosport Park and Mont-Tremblant. Then Gethin got into the car, winning at Road America.

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The car was a spare for the 1971 season when Peter Revson joined Hulme as McLaren drivers.

The M8D succeeded the M8B because its high rear wing had been banned for the 1970s season. The lowering of the wing led to its “Batmobile” nickname. McLaren won 9 of 10 races during 1970, and its fourth consecutive series championship.

Plans call for Häkkinen to do at-speed exhibition laps in the M8D/3 at Laguna Seca during the noon hour lunch break on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, August 15-17.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

1 COMMENT

  1. Shame that it wasn’t mentioned here that the reason why Dan the Man had to give up the McLaren ride his friend Bruce had was a puerile spat between sponsors. He would have won the championship in a walk but for the money grubbers. Nice car though. Wonder how good a street ride it’d be?

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