Following the death of former McLaren team boss Teddy Mayer just before the weekend, tributes have been pouring in from motorsport's leading figures, praising the American as 'one of the giants of our industry' and 'one of motor racing's few truly great men'.
Pennsylvania-born Mayer – whose brother Tim was tragically killed in a practice accident for a Tasman Series race in Tasmania in early 1964 whilst partnering McLaren founder Bruce McLaren – passed away in England at the age of 73 [see separate story – click here
]. He was credited with having helped to set up what would go on to become the multiple world championship-winning outfit with McLaren, and took over the reins following the Kiwi's death in 1970.
Mayer led the squad to its first two drivers' world championship titles, courtesy of Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 and James Hunt in 1976 respectively, as well as its maiden constructors' crown in 1974 and glory in the celebrated Indianapolis 500 with Johnny Rutherford two years later.
The former Penske Racing Vice-Chairman also enjoyed significant success across the Pond in CART and Champ Car circles, though he was renowned for his famously short fuse when it came to hiring and firing drivers. Hunt once joked that Mayer had dismissed more world champions than most other team bosses had signed in the first place, but the man himself insisted: “Drivers are just interchangeable light bulbs – you plug them in and they do the job.”
Mayer left McLaren in 1982, two years after he had been replaced at the helm by Ron Dennis, who key sponsor Marlboro had brought in to take over the running of the team. The Englishman – himself due to hand over control to deputy Martin Whitmarsh before the start of the 2009 Formula 1 campaign in just under two months' time – spoke warmly of his former colleague.
“Teddy was one of motor racing's few truly great men,” Dennis said in a team statement. “As far as I and all at McLaren are concerned, he has particular importance, on account of the fact that in 1963 he was part of the very small team of talented enthusiasts who, alongside Bruce McLaren, founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd.
“Bruce died tragically young in 1970, having won grands prix but no world championships with his fledgling team, but when I bought into the team in 1980 Teddy had built on the foundations laid by Bruce, Tyler Alexander and himself and had already achieved a lot – two Formula 1 World Championships with Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt, as well as huge success in the States.
“Those fantastic cars – the magnificent McLaren Can-Am cars driven by Denny Hulme and Bruce himself and the superb McLaren CART cars driven by guys like Johnny Rutherford, as well as James' and Emerson's iconic McLaren M23 Formula 1 cars – grace the boulevard reception area of the McLaren Technology Centre today.
“In 1982 Teddy sold his shares in McLaren, and I'm glad to say we've continued to be successful and to win world championships ever since, but the origins of our many and ongoing successes are with Bruce and Teddy.