Ron Dennis - the conclusion of an illustrious F1 career 16 Apr 2009
McLarens announcement on Thursday that Ron Dennis is to bow out of Formula One racing in favour of a role championing the companys new sports car business, brings to a close one of the most influential careers in the sports history. From mechanic to team principal, Dennis has been a pioneering force for the over 30 years.
He started his motorsport career back in 1966, joining the Cooper Racing Car Company after a spell as an apprentice mechanic. Within two years he moved to Brabham where he became the chief mechanic to three-time champion Jack Brabham. By 1971, however, an ambitious Dennis had left to set up his own Formula Two team, Rondel Racing.
Rondel would be the first of several successful F2 and Procar ventures Dennis was involved with over the next decade. His big break, however, came in 1980 when his team, Project Four, merged with McLaren to form McLaren Racing. Within two years hed assumed control of the team and with him at the helm the team didnt look back.
McLaren have since won 162 races, seven constructors championships and 10 driver titles, with Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna just some of the famous names to have won championships whilst driving for the Woking team. Their most recent champion, Lewis Hamilton, was hand-picked by Dennis when he was just 13 years-old as a future talent.
Denniss entrepreneurial skills have also led McLaren to diversify into several other areas and in 1989 he co-founded McLaren Cars, which designed and manufactured the revolutionary F1 road car of 1994. As well as its automotive interests, the McLaren Group currently encompasses McLaren Electronic Systems, McLaren Applied Technologies, McLaren Marketing and Absolute Taste.
In 2000, Dennis was honoured with a CBE for services to motorsport and a year later was presented with a BRDC Gold Medal in recognition of his contribution to motorsport. Over the years he has also been awarded an Hon DTech from De Montfort University in 1996, an Hon DSc from City University (London) in 1997 and, in 2000, an Hon DSc from the University of Surrey.
He retains a stake in McLaren, alongside fellow shareholders Daimler, the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company and the TAG Group. But, with his attentions now fully focused on McLaren Automotive (which will become an independent company later this year), his careful stewardship of the Formula One team passes in full to long-time colleague Martin Whitmarsh, who became team principal at the start of March.