Teddy Mayer (1935 - 2009)


Motorsport is today mourning the passing of Teddy Mayer, co-founder, along with Bruce McLaren, of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd.

While many of today's Formula One fans immediately associate McLaren with Ron Dennis, Martin Whitmarsh, Woking and Lewis Hamilton, it was Mayer who in 1963 helped create the legendary outfit, taking up the reins when McLaren died in 1970; and who was still there to finally hand over total control to Ron Dennis in 1982.

In between, there were nearly thirty Grand Prix wins, two Drivers' World Championships and eight top three places in the Constructors' Championship.

Edward Everett Mayer was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on September 8, 1935. His father was a stockbroker, while his Uncle William was a State governor. Teddy was to study European history, political science and law, and a special tax law course, at both Yale and Cornell universities.

It was while at university, after racing an Austin Healey, that Mayer and his younger brother Timmy met up with Revlon Cosmetics heir Peter Revson and another friend to form Rev-Em Racing. In 1961, with Teddy as team manager, the trio raced Formula Junior Coopers and in 1962 they won 15 out of 16 races, in addition to 14 second places and 14 thirds. Indeed, Timmy Mayer qualified eleventh for the US Grand Prix that year.

This success brought them to the attention of Ken Tyrrell, who was running Formula Junior Cooper-BMCs in Europe, and late in the summer of 1963 the brothers came to Europe. Timmy showed great promise, to the extent that Cooper wanted to run him in Formula One the following season.

Unfortunately however, Cooper wanted Timmy to gain further experience and it was suggested he should run in the Tasman Series along with their current driver Bruce McLaren in F1 cars. However, Cooper didn't want Mayer in a works car, while McLaren felt that F1 cars wouldn't be competitive, whereas special 2.5 litre lightweight cars would.

Consequently, McLaren and Teddy formed Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd with the intention of running the Coopers in the 1964 Tasman series the way Bruce wanted. The championship, however, was to end in tragedy when Timmy was killed at Longford, the last race in the series.

In the aftermath of the accident, Teddy spent much time reflecting on his future, eventually deciding to continue in racing with McLaren. The kiwi took a little convincing but eventually Mayer joined the team and a legend was born.

McLaren and Mayer formed a superb double-act, McLaren as the nice guy, Mayer as the tough guy determined to get things done quickly and efficiently. However, his role was not confined to the boardroom, for Teddy taught himself the basics of engineering and was to prove just as adept in the pit lane.

Mayer and McLaren took the team forward; first there were the M1 series sports cars of 1964, then big-engined single-seaters from 1965, followed by F2 and F1 in '1967. Mayer's American experience proved especially useful in the CanAm series which they dominated in 1969. Eventually, that experience would also benefit the team's F5000 and IndyCar programmes.

When Bruce McLaren was killed while testing at Goodwood in 1970, it was Mayer and Bruce's long-time friend Phil Kerr who kept the team on the road. Subsequently, Gordon Coppuck's M23 brought them World Championships in the mid-seventies when Kerr returned home to New Zealand, leaving Mayer in charge.

The tough talking American was one of the team owners who, along with Bernie Ecclestone, Colin Chapman, Ken Tyrrell and Max Mosley, helped form the Formula One Constructors Association which was to change the commercial nature of the sport.

In the late seventies however, ground effect became dominant and McLaren began to struggle. Over the years, Mayer had brought American giants Yardley and Philip Morris to the team, the latter being a particularly inspired success, however, the tobacco giants were frustrated at the lack of results. Consequently, they helped engineer the arrival of Ron Dennis's Project Four team and his designer John Barnard in 1980.

Mayer remained for another two years before eventually selling his 45 percent share holding and departing, along with long-time associate Tyler Alexander, to form a CART team.

CART rival Carl Haas briefly brought Mayer back into Formula One with the short-lived Beatrice Lola team in the mid-eighties, before Mayer subsequently joined Roger Penske as vice-president of Penske Racing and deputy chairman of Penske Cars Ltd. in Poole, Dorset. He remained at Penske in a consultant role until 2007.

Mayer remained in England until his death on Friday, his son, Tim, is not only an FIA delegate but also runs the American Le Mans series.

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Published: 01/02/2009
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