In 1967 Denny Hulme became the first – and to date only – New Zealander to win the Formula One World Championship. Between his debut at Monaco in 1965 and his final race in the US Grand Prix in 1974, Hulme made 112 starts in F1, for eight victories and 33 podium finishes. He finished third in the overall standings in 1968 and 1972.
Hulme showed his versatility as a driver by also dominating the Canadian-American Challenge Cup series (for Group 7 sports cars). As a member of the McLaren team that won five straight titles between 1967 and 1971, he won the individual drivers' championship twice and was runner-up on four other occasions. In 1967 Hulme not only won the F1 championship but was second in the Can-Am series and fourth in that year's Indy 500. He was recognised at home with the New Zealand Sportsman of the Year award.
Denny's father, Alfred Hulme, won the Victoria Cross while fighting in Crete in 1941. Denny was born and raised on the family tobacco farm in Motueka. After leaving school he worked in a garage and saved enough to buy an MG TF. He began competing in local events and in 1960 won a Driver-to-Europe scholarship. This took him to England where he worked for the legendary Australian F1 driver and constructor, Jack Brabham.
In 1961 Hulme raced at Le Mans for the Abarth team before joining Ken Tyrrell's Formula 2 team. After some impressive performances for Tyrrell, Hulme rejoined Brabham's F2 team before making the step-up to F1 in 1965 at Monaco. He soon secured his first points with a fourth placing in the French Grand prix. In his first full season of F1 in 1966 he finished fourth overall.
The 1967 championship consisted of 11 races. Hulme won at Monte Carlo and in Germany and secured enough podium finishes elsewhere to claim the Championship by five points from his boss, Jack Brabham.
In 1968 Hulme joined fellow Kiwi Bruce McLaren's team. Victories in Italy and Canada were not enough for Hulme to defend his title and he finished third. He remained with McLaren until his retirement in 1974.
After retiring from F1, Hulme turned to touring car racing. In 1992, while competing in the Bathurst 1000, Australia's premier touring car race, he suffered a massive heart attack at the wheel of a BMW M3 travelling at just over 300 km/h. He hit a wall but managed to bring the car to a relatively controlled stop. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Bathurst Hospital.
Hulme raced in an era when the life expectancy of drivers was low. The cars and tracks lacked many of the safety features considered standard today. These challenges were highlighted by the fact that, at the time of his death, Hulme was the first former F1 champion to die of natural causes.
Following his death Denny Hulme was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame. A decade later, in 2002, he received worldwide recognition with his induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. He remains New Zealand's only F1 world champion.