MARCH 19, 2009
Alexander may not be finished yet!
McLaren announced earlier this week that Tyler Alexander is to retire, 46 years after he first joined the team. But we hear that the 68-year-old American may not be finished with the sport yet, as his passion, enthusiasm and technical experience could still be useful to another F1 team.
Alexander was one of the founder members of the McLaren team back in 1963 with Bruce McLaren and Teddy Mayer. He quickly became chief mechanic, then chief engineer and ultimately a director of the company. Initially involved in F1, Alexander became increasingly part of the McLaren empire in the United States, overseeing the McLaren empire from its base in Livonia, Michigan. McLaren's early success came in CanAm racing where the company won five successive titles (1967-71) and a record 43 victories for Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Revson. After Bruce McLaren's death in a testing accident in 1970 Alexander and Mayer became the key players in the team, along with Hulme. While Mayer concentrated on F1, Alexander did more in the United States and in the mid-1970s turned towards USAC racing, with drivers such as Johnny Rutherford and Tom Sneva. They won Indy 500s in 1974 and 1976 and one USAC title. In 1979, however, with the F1 team in the doldrums, Alexander returned to Europe to help Mayer turn the team around. He became engineering director but a year later Marlboro, the team's primary sponsor, pushed McLaren to merge with Ron Dennis's Project 4, which had Marlboro backing in other championships.
Alexander had a small shareholding in the new McLaren International, but was never happy in the new team and at the end of 1982 sold his shares to Dennis and departed and he and Mayer formed a British-based Indycar team called Mayer Motor Racing, for which he ran the technical operations. The team came close to winning the 1984 Indycar title at the team's first attempt with driver Tom Sneva.
Mayer Motor Racing survived only until the pair were hired by Carl Haas to be the team principals of the new Beatrice F1 team. Alexander was team manager of the operation, which boasted an impressive engineering line-up that included Neil Oatley, Ross Brawn, Adrian Newey and others. The plan was to run Ford factory turbo engines but these were late arriving and so the team kicked off with former World Champion Alan Jones racing with Hart turbos.
Sadly in July 1985 there was a major change in the management of Beatrice and the new executives were not interested in F1 and announced that the team was up for sale. In the course of 1986 Jones and Patrick Tambay scored points with the Ford-engined THL2 but Carl Haas could not find the money to keep the team going and Alexander went to work for BMW in IMSA with drivers John Watson and David Hobbs before becoming team manager of the Newman-Haas CART team until 1989 when he returned to England to head the McLaren special projects department.