Teddy Mayer: Motor racing entrepreneur who helped James Hunt win the Formula One world championship

Edward Everett "Teddy" Mayer trained as a lawyer, but motor racing was in his blood. More than once, tragedy in the sport affected him directly, but his competitive resolve never once wavered.

Born in 1935 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where his father would become governor, Mayer studied law at Yale and Cornell universities, but also became involved with the racing aspirations of his brother Timmy, three years his junior. The latter cut his teeth with an Austin-Healey, moved into single seaters in 1960 with a Lotus 18, and finished second in five of his eight races.

Despite being drafted into the US Army and based in Puerto Rico, Timmy took strategic leave at weekends and shuttled back home to compete in Formula Junior, racing with the Revlon heir Peter Revson in a team managed by Mayer which combined their names: RevEm Racing. Timmy won the 1962 SCCA Formula Junior title in a Cooper and made his Grand Prix debut in the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen later that year.

The brothers headed to Europe in 1963, where Timmy drove for Ken Tyrrell Racing. At the end of that season he signed to drive alongside the New Zealander Bruce McLaren in the nascent Bruce McLaren Motor Racing team.

McLaren and Timmy raced a pair of 2.5-litre Cooper Climaxes in the Tasman Cup series in Australia and New Zealand early in 1964. Timmy finished second to the future world champion and McLaren star Denny Hulme in his début at Levin and a week later, as McLaren won, he chased runner-up Hulme home in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe.

His potential was clear, but in practice for the race in Longford, Australia, he crashed at high speed on the main straight where the cars tended to go light as they crested a rise, and was killed instantly as his car collided with some trees. As the Mayer family struggled to come to terms with the loss of their son, Teddy rallied. Within a month, on McLaren's behalf, he acquired the Zerex Special sports car from his fellow American Roger Penske. It was the machine that would set the McLaren team on the road to greatness, and sired the "orange elephant" sports cars with which they would dominate the lucrative Canadian American (Can-Am) Challenge Cup Series from 1967 to 1971.

Six years after his brother's death, Mayer was tested again, when McLaren was killed in one of his Can-Am cars on 2 June 1970 in a trial at the Goodwood circuit. Together with Hulme and fellow directors Phil Kerr and Tyler Alexander, who had been part of RevEm Racing in the early days, he was instrumental in keeping the shattered team alive. They continued to win in Can-Am and in Formula One, and then at Indianapolis and other American tracks when McLaren also ventured into the IndyCar series.

In 1974 Mayer engineered a brilliant alliance between McLaren, sponsor Marlboro and the 1972 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, which, that season, resulted in the team's first world drivers' and constructors' championship. They repeated in the drivers' championship with James Hunt in 1976, though the mercurial Englishman had to be restrained as he ranted at Mayer after the dramatic finale in Fuji as he mistakenly believed that the American's call on tyre strategy, which actually won him the title, had cost him it.

McLaren's Formula One fortunes, however, declined thereafter, and in 1980 Mayer was forced to agree to a marriage of convenience, facilitated by Marlboro, between the McLaren team and fellow racer Ron Dennis's Project Four operation, which resulted in the creation of McLaren International. By 1982, Mayer and Alexander had left the team they had helped to create.

Mayer went on to run his own IndyCar team, Mayer Motor Racing, under Texaco Star sponsorship, before returning to Formula One with the Formula One Race Car Engineering (FORCE) team created by Lola's US importer Carl Haas. They would employ designers of the calibre of Neil Oatley, Ross Brawn and Adrian Newey and in 1985 ran the 1980 world champion Alan Jones in an operation lucratively funded by the US Beatrice corporation. They foundered a year later, however, after a change of the sponsor's management.

In 1989 Mayer stepped in to manage the Brabham Formula One team with drivers Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell, before returning to the US IndyCar scene as Roger Penske's vice chairman of motorsports operations. He was a key factor in Penske's outstanding successes of the Nineties, rekindling his past working relationship with Fittipaldi.

An Anglophile, Mayer later moved into a consultancy role with Penske in the UK which, despite spinal problems which affected his health, he continued until 2007. Under his stewardship, McLaren won races in Formula One, Can-Am and IndyCar racing (including three triumphs in the prestigious Indianapolis 500), a glittering record that not even Ferrari could boast.

"[Mayer's death] is a big loss for Grand Prix racing," Fittipaldi said. "Teddy was one of the guys who was there when Formula One started building up, with Bernie Ecclestone, Ken Tyrrell and Frank Williams. I owe a lot of my results and successes in my career to him. In 1993 I won my second Indy 500 with him as team manager [at Penske]. We won the Formula One world championship and Indianapolis 500 together, so I have a large amount of gratitude for what Teddy did for my career. He was extremely committed to succeed. And though he lost his brother Timmy in Tasmania, he continued to have the love and the passion for the sport."

David Tremayne

Edward Everett Mayer, motor racing entrepreneur: born Scranton, Pennsylvania 8 September 1935; married Sally Bryant (marriage dissolved 1993, one son, one daughter); died East Clandon, Surrey 30 January 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash