Teddy Mayer

Teddy Mayer passed away at home in Surrey at the end of January. Mayer, 73, was a stalwart of McLaren Cars through most of the company’s first 20 years and spent the last 20 years of a long career with Penske Racing, primarily as a key administrator of Penske Cars in Dorset. As McLaren’s business manager, Mayer joined Bernie Ecclestone in helping found the Formula 1 Constructors’ Association, and a few years later he worked with Roger Penske, Dan Gurney, Pat Patrick and Jim Hall to create CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams).

Edward Everett Mayer was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and studied law at Cornell University before getting into racing with his younger brother, Timmy. The younger Mayer proved to be a talented driver in America in the early 1960s, racing Formula Junior and 2-litre sports cars. Timmy and Peter Revson formed a team called RevEm Racing and both aimed to pursue careers in Europe. Mayer drove a Cooper in the 1962 United States GP at Watkins Glen and joined Bruce McLaren’s fledgling team the following year. McLaren and Mayer raced a pair of McLaren-modified Coopers in the 1964 Tasman Series, but Mayer was killed in an accident at Longford, Tasmania in February ’64.

The death of his brother did not deter Teddy from forging on as McLaren’s business manager. Mayer was joined by fellow American Tyler Alexander, who became one of the team’s chief mechanics and engineers. With Chris Amon and then Denny Hulme the little team swept to five successive Can-Am championships and also began to win races in Formula 1.

Following McLaren’s death in 1970, Mayer and Alexander ran McLaren’s F1, Can-Am and Indycar concerns until 1980, winning many major races and titles in all three categories, including the F1 World Championship with Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 and James Hunt in ’76. McLaren also won the Indy 500 with Johnny Rutherford in 1974 and ’76. Peter Revson drove for the team in Can-Am, F1 and Indycar, replacing Bruce following his death, but Revson himself perished at the wheel of an F1 Shadow in the spring of ’73.

Perhaps because he witnessed the deaths of his brother, McLaren and Revson, Mayer had little sympathy for most drivers, viewing them as replaceable components. Mayer was a no-nonsense, sometimes caustic character whose nickname was ‘The Weiner’. But he had a warm spot in his heart for some. While writing my book about Rick Mears, Teddy sent me an e-mail insisting on making a brief comment about Mears. Mayer recalled Mears taking pole at Indianapolis in 1991 after crashing the day before and breaking a bone in his foot.

“For a hard-bitten race engineer who’s seen everything,” said Mayer, “I’ve never seen anything quite as impressive as what Rick did that day. That was just a tremendous performance – Rick Mears at his best.”

Mayer lived most of his adult life in England. He and his wife Sally, who were divorced in 1993, had two children, Tim and Anne, both of whom live in the US. Tim runs IMSA, the sanctioning body for the ALMS. Our sympathies go to Sally, Tim, Anne and the Mayer family.