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.
“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'.