Mansour Ojjeh, one of the key figures behind the McLaren Formula 1 team’s revival under Ron Dennis in the early 1980s, has passed away at the age of 68.
McLaren team boss Zak Brown said in a statement: “Mansour Ojjeh has been etched into the heart and soul of this team for nearly 40 years and was intrinsic to its success. The passing of Mansour has devastated everyone at McLaren Racing.”
The French Saudia-Arabian-born businessman passed away at his home in Switzerland.
Ojjeh first funded McLaren’s racing activities in the early 1980s, bolstering Ron Dennis’s operation which had combined his Project 4 team with the ailing Woking squad.
The former was the CEO of the Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG), a Luxembourg-based investment company. Dennis persuaded Mansour to fund the development of the Porsche-built turbo engines which McLaren needed to take on the might of Renault, Ferrari and BMW, whose 1.5-litre turbocharged power units were becoming the class of the field by 1982.
Ojjeh obliged, and the engine was first used in 1983. By 1984, the McLaren MP4/2 and the TAG-Porsche engine were a winning combination, Niki Lauda claiming the drivers’ championship by half a point.
The same would happen the next season, with Alain Prost taking the title with the same engine and the next iteration of McLaren.
Ojjeh would then go on to buy shares in the McLaren team, owning 14% of the Woking squad through TAG.
More world titles followed with Prost again, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton, but a dip in the form, the Hamilton Australian GP ‘cheating’ scandal and then the disastrous Honda link-up eventually led to Dennis being ejected from the organisation, the former team boss selling his shares to Ojjeh and Bahraini investement group Mumtalakat.
After several years of ill health, Ojjeh’s place on the board of McLaren’s parent company was taken by his son Sultan last year. He had stepped away from the McLaren racing organisation in 2019.
“Mansour was a titan of our sport, yet modest, unassuming and disarming to all he encountered. His easy manner, sharp wit and warm humour touched all those who were fortunate to know him,” Zak Brown said.
“His love of this team was palpable for all to see and those of us privileged to work for McLaren will remember Mansour as an impressive yet humble, human, father-figure who showed us at the most individual, personal level how to fight adversity and be resilient.
“He will remain in death what he was in life: a constant inspiration to all of us at McLaren and beyond. Mansour’s legacy is secure. It is woven into this team and perpetual. We race on as he would wish, our resolve stronger than ever, with his memory and legacy forever in our hearts and minds.
“All at McLaren Racing express their deepest sympathies to his entire family.”