Under-fire he may have been in recent years, leading to the suggestion that he backed away from his Formula One operation in order to allow it clemency in recent FIA hearings, but Ron Dennis' contribution to motorsport has nevertheless been recognised.

Now executive chairman on McLaren Automotive, Dennis was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 Sport Industry Awards on Thursday [30 April], receiving the accolade from two of his world champions in front of a packed house of industry executives and sport and entertainment celebrities in London.

Dennis, already a CBE for his role in leading McLaren to multiple world titles since his Project Four operation merged with the eponymous creation of Kiwi constructor-driver Bruce McLaren, and received his award in person from Alain Prost and Mika Hakkinen as the night celebrated an involvement in motorsport that spans more than over 40 years.

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"My involvement in F1 began in 1966 and, over the intervening 43 years, it's been my abiding passion," admitted Dennis, who stepped down as team principal at the start of the 2009 season and, two weeks ago, divorced himself entirely from the F1 side of the McLaren empire.

"In that time, I've worked alongside some of the greatest racing drivers in the history of the sport, as well as a large number of enormously talented and extremely hard-working individuals. I regard my interaction with all of them as a privilege for, although it's the virtuoso performances of great racing drivers that inevitably attract all the attention, F1 is above all a team endeavour. The winning is done as much by the unsung heroes as by the superstars.

"So, as far as McLaren is concerned, the word 'team' hardly suffices - I prefer the term 'family'. And, together with the many talented and hard-working individuals who have made up or still make up the McLaren family, I've been involved in the accruing of 138 grand prix wins, ten drivers' world championships and seven constructors' world championships.

"It's particularly appropriate that those achievements should be recognised at this time, because it's only two weeks since I decided to bring my involvement in F1 to a close. I did so in order to focus on opening a new chapter in McLaren's history: the McLaren Automotive chapter.

"Martin Whitmarsh, my friend and colleague for the past 20-odd years, will now take on the leadership of McLaren's F1 programme, leaving me with the time to devote my energies to developing McLaren Automotive into the powerhouse of world-class engineering innovation that any company carrying the brand name McLaren must always be. It's a challenge I intend to embrace with all the passion that, these past 43 years, I've devoted to F1."

Prost, who won three of his four world championship titles as a McLaren driver, added that the Briton had been 'a pivotal and inspirational figure in my professional career'.

"My three world championship titles during my time at McLaren were as much to do with his passion and determination as any other factor," the Frenchman conceded, "This Lifetime Achievement Award is just recognition for a man who has dedicated his life to motor racing and, without whom, the Formula One paddock would have been a poorer place."

Friend and rival Sir Frank Williams and legendary F1 commentator Murray Walker both also paid tribute to Dennis, who follows F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone (2006) among previous winners of the award.

"I was honoured to be asked to comment on the award Ron is receiving," Williams admitted, "Ron is a man of outstanding ability and in a class of his own in Formula One. Over the decades, he has demonstrated an ability to win consistently and indeed to do it with supreme elegance. He is infuriatingly good at what he does and I am delighted he is being honoured in this manner."

Walker was typically understated in describing a man whose team proved the focus of many a commentary during his time with the BBC and ITV stations.

"Ron is Britain`s Enzo Ferrari - and that`s the highest compliment I can give because no-one can come close to what he's achieved for motor sport in Britain," he noted, "He will say it's a team effort, [but] I would say he led and others followed."

On a good night for the McLaren operation, title sponsor Vodafone also won the 'best sponsorship of a sport team or individual' award sponsored by Nolan Partners.