Tyler Alexander, one of the McLaren F1 team’s founding members, has passed away at the age of 75.
Born in Massachusets, Alexander studied aviation engineering before switching to motorsport in the early 1960s, where he became an engineer for Texan oil millionaire John Mecom’s sports car team.
That led to him making connections with Teddy Mayer, who was running Peter Revson’s Formula Junior outfit, and in 1963 Revson and Mayer headed to Europe, taking Alexander with them.
Mayer formed a partnership with Bruce McLaren, helping the New Zealander set up his eponymous racing team in 1963. Alexander became a mechanic with the team.
Alexander would remain with the team – through its Mayer and subsequent Ron Dennis eras – and progressed through the ranks, serving stints as the team’s chief mechanic, then chief engineer, and ultimately as a director of the company.
His role expanded to include McLaren’s US empire, where the team was particularly successful in CanAm Racing with a record 43 race wins and five successive titles between 1967-1971 for McLaren, Revson and Denny Hulme.
Thereafter, the team also concentrated on USAC racing, claiming two Indianapolis 500 wins and one outright USAC title.
Alexander was summoned back to Europe in 1979 to help improve the F1 team’s waning fortunes after its 1976 triumph with James Hunt.
When the team merged with Ron Dennis’ Project 4 in the early 1980s, Alexander acquired a small shareholding in the team, although he sold it to Dennis at the end of 1982 and followed Mayer – who had been booted out of the team – back to the USA.
He and Mayer founded Mayer Motor Racing and their driver Ton Sneva almost won the 1984 IndyCar title in the team’s first season, but the team soon closed down as Mayer and Alexander returned to F1, this time with the short-lived Beatrice-Haas Lola F1 team which had former F1 champion Alan Jones as its lead driver in 1985-6.
After a brief stint heading BMW’s IMSA team in the late 1980s, Alexander was rehired by Dennis and remained with the team until he retired in 2009.
He recently authoried a photographic book McLaren from the Inside, combining his motor racing career and passion for photography.
McLaren CEO Ron Dennis paid tribute to Alexander in a statement issued by the team.
“Alongside Bruce McLaren, who founded the McLaren company in 1963, Tyler Alexander was one of the first pillars of our company – working hard alongside Bruce from the very earliest days – and Bruce couldn’t have asked for a sturdier pair of shoulders upon which to help build the team’s reputation,” he said.
“Tyler’s expert yet practical expertise, coupled with his energetic and optimistic attitude, topped off by his infectiously dry and satirical sense of humour, made him both highly successful and hugely popular, whether he was overseeing car-builds in the team’s workshop, running race-winning CanAm and Indy 500 crews, or working with some of the world’s greatest drivers and engineers in Formula 1.
“Quite simply, Tyler lived and breathed McLaren – and, following his retirement in late 2008, during which season he attended every grand prix and played an important part in securing the team’s and Lewis Hamilton’s world championship success, he remained a much loved and greatly valued chum to many of us, regularly visiting our Woking factory to catch up with pals old and new.
“Tyler’s was a friendship that you could really rely upon; he was a man who would never let you down. In fact, Tyler was one of the finest of the old school: hardy, humble and wise, leaving a reputation and a legacy that will remain indelible in the history of international motorsport.
“So, on behalf of all at McLaren, I’d like to pay heartfelt tribute to one of our team’s founding fathers, and to offer our deepest condolences to his many friends and his ever-loving companion, Jane Nottage, who has always stood by him, valiant to the very end.”
The RF1 team similarly extends its condolences.
Image via McLaren F1 Team
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