A grand American figure in motor racing history has quietly left the scene. After battling Parkinson’s Disease for a decade, Teddy Mayer, cofounder of Team McLaren, passed away unexpectedly as he slept at his English home in late January at the age of 73.
Born Edward Everett Mayer in Scranton, Pennsylvania, his involvement in racing began while he was studying law at Cornell University, as he began helping his younger brother Tim and their friend, Peter Revson, to further their driving careers. To that end, Teddy helped establish Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd., which fielded Timmy and Bruce himself for the Tasman Series in 1964. But even though McLaren won the Antipodean championship, the effort ended in tragedy as Timmy was killed in a crash during the season finale at Longford.
After deciding to continue with McLaren, Mayer directed the team’s efforts in Formula One and the new Can-Am series in consort with fellow American, Tyler Alexander. During his 16-year tenure with the Formula One team, McLaren cars won 22 Grands Prix and produced World Championships for Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 and James Hunt in 1976.
As much as the Can-Am became the Bruce and Denny Show, it was also the Teddy and Tyler Show, and the team won five consecutive championships between 1967 and 1971—two for Bruce, two for Denny, and the last for Revson. During that period, Team McLaren won 37 of 43 races, including all 11 in 1969 with the M8B.
Following an exploratory effort in 1970, McLaren tackled Indianapolis with great success. By that time, however, Bruce had been killed in a preseason testing accident, and it was Mayer and Alexander, along with McLaren’s old friend Phil Kerr, who kept the team together.
In 1971, Revson took pole position for Team McLaren at Indy, a feat duplicated by Johnny Rutherford in both 1973 and 1976. Rutherford won the 500 for McLaren in 1974 and 1976, finishing 2nd in the U.S. National Championship those same years.
Teddy was ultimately forced out of McLaren when sponsor Marlboro, whom Mayer had brought to the team, engineered a takeover by Ron Dennis’s Project 4 operation in 1980. Teddy lasted 2 more years before leaving the team he’d helped create. Not long thereafter, Mayer Motor Racing arrived on the scene, and under the MMR banner, Mayer and Alexander guided Tom Sneva to another pole position at Indy and 2nd place in the 1984 championship.
Following a brief tenure with the short-lived Beatrice F1 effort, Mayer served as vice-president of Penske Racing and deputy chairman of Penske Cars Ltd., Roger’s English car-construction operation in Poole, Dorset.
A compact man of great intellect, the multifaceted Mayer had little time for those who would waste his, and could therefore be a polarizing figure, but he knew his business, which made him a valued ally wherever he went. Beyond his formal education, he taught himself sufficient engineering principles to be an effective team manager and race strategist. To his family and many friends in and out of the sport, Vintage Racecar offers its sincerest sympathies.