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Born on this day: the most successful Kiwi in F1

1967 world champion Deny Hulme.

© F1-photo.com / Cahier Archive

It was on this day in 1936 that Denis Clive Hulme was born on a tobacco farm in Motueka in the South Island of New Zealand. Driving was just something you did when growing up in a rural setting, and by the age of six young 'Denny' was already adept at the wheel.

Cars soon became the love of his life, and he saved enough money to buy a F2 Cooper-Climax and started making a name for himself in local races. He soon left for Europe with his friend George Lawton and the two began competing in Formula Junior and Formula Two.

Moving to London, he found work as a mechanic in Jack Brabham's garage in Chessington. And it was Brabham who gave him his break in F2, which paved the way in turn to his maiden Formula 1 race at Monaco in 1965.

Hulme won the world championship with Brabham in 1967. He was third the following year and again in 1972 with McLaren. In total he claimed eight wins and 33 podiums in 112 starts, although he only ever started from pole once - in South Africa, during the 1973 season. He's hailed as the most successful of the nine New Zealanders to have competed in F1, which also include Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon and Brendon Hartley.

The following year, Hulme - nicknamed 'the Bear' because of his "gruff nature" and "rugged features" - decided to call it a day in F1. His final Grand Prix was in Sweden, although he never turned his back on motorsport and continued to race Australian Touring Cars.

Hulme was taking part in the Bathurst 1000 at the famous Mount Panorama track when he suffered from a heart attack while at the wheel. He managed to bring the BMW M3 to a halt but when marshalls arrived at the scene they found him slumped in the seat, still strapped in.

He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. It meant he was the first former F1 champion to die of natural causes - previous former champions had died in racing or road accidents, and Graham Hill who was killed in a aircraft crash in 1975. Even so, 56 was far too young to lose such a giant figure in the history of the sport.

Denny Hulme, 1966 Italian Grand Prix

© F1-photo/com / Cahier Archive

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