Sad to hear of the death last week of Teddy Mayer.

 35mm Transparency Image Mayer ran the McLaren team from Bruce McLaren’s death in 1970 to Ron Dennis’s Marlboro-backed takeover a decade later.

During that ten-year spell Mayer helped steer the team’s path to world championship titles with Emerson Fittipaldi (1974) and James Hunt (1976), both men driving the glorious McLaren M23, and later battled the downhill slide which resulted in the company’s enforced amalgamation with Dennis’s Project 4 organisation in 1980.

Mayer, born in 1935, was a feisty and combative individual. He was the first F1 team principal I ever rowed with, back in 1973 when he threatened (italics)Motoring News with legal action if we published a press release from their sponsor Yardley slamming the team for doing a deal with Philip Morris for Marlboro backing the following year.

 35mm Transparency Image In the event this ticklish problem was resolved by Mayer fielding three cars in ’74, two in Marlboro colours for Fittipaldi and McLaren veteran Denny Hulme, one in Yardley livery for Mika Hailwood and, later, Jochen Mass.

Teddy got involved in racing mainly to look after the career of his dazzlingly talented brother Timmy, who was due to join Bruce McLaren in the Cooper F1 works team in 1964. Sadly Tim was killed practising for a race in Longford, Tasmania, at the start of ’64 and Teddy, perhaps as a way of dealing with his grief, abandoned his career as a lawyer and threw in his lot with McLaren to bring some much-needed finance as well as mental dexterity to the management side of the business.

When Mayer joined McLaren – or Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, as it then was – the financial structure of international motor racing was very different to what we know today.

 35mm Transparency Image “We paid our top two mechanics, Tyler Alexander and Wally Willmott, £30 a week and we reckoned that was a tremendous amount of money,” Teddy told me in the 1980s.

“You’ve got to remember that there were none of the outside commercial sponsors as we know today. Virtually all the sponsorship came from oil and tyre companies and most of the negotiations were carried out via the old pals’ act. It was as if you waved a magic wand and the finance appeared.”

Bruce and Teddy worked well together. Bruce’s laid-back charm and sunny disposition, his outward tolerance and reservoir of goodwill, acted as a timely foil to Mayer’s somewhat abrupt business style. They were an unlikely team, but a successful one.


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