Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Teddy Mayer

This past weekend, Teddy Mayer passed away in England at the age of 73. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? As he was the guiding force that helped Bruce McLaren begin his own racing concern in 1963, when Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd was formed. And when Bruce died in 1970, it was Teddy who took over the reigns of Team McLaren, leading the organization to the dizzying heights of Formula 1 World Champions; with Emerson Fittipaldi winning the 1974 Driver’s title and James Hunt securing the 1976 Driver’s crown, along with hitting the trifecta in ’74, as it was to be Team McLaren’s very first F1 Driver’s title, Constructor’s crown and Indy 500 victory.

Yet it was also Teddy who guided McLaren Cars into the realm of Indy Car racing, which I’ve scribbled about previously in McLaren at Indy. And it was Mayer who ultimately hired Johnny Rutherford as his team’s lead driver, while it was Peter Revson who provided McLaren’s first Indy 500 pole position in 1971, before finishing runner-up. Yet it would be Roger Penske’s customer chassis with Mark Donohue at the keyboard who’d give McLaren Cars their first Indy 500 victory in 1972.

Thus the stage was set between the AAR Eagles of Dan Gurney’s construction vs. McLaren Cars during the early 1970’s, as they’d swap turns in victory lane the next four years, as Rutherford and Team McLaren would be victorious in 1974 and 1976, with Johnny scoring his second 500 victory from the pole, along with being runner-up in 1975. Yet rules changes would make the mighty Offenhauser obsolete, as Tom “The Gasman” Sneva would break the 200mph barrier in 1977 when capturing pole aboard Team Penske’s customer McLaren powered by the Cosworth V-8 lump.

Thus by 1979 the bloom had gone off of McLaren as the ground effects era had been unkind to the once dominant team and Teddy would ultimately leave the McLaren concern in 1982...

:For those of us who had the honor to meet Mayer, two things stand out: his sense of humor and his ability to include anyone he saw at a race track with a warm hand-shake or a smile as he greeted them, be it a volunteer worker to the drivers to team owners and series chiefs.”


For more on Teddy Mayer, see; Teddy Mayer, a remarkable man, passes away