Saturday, January 17, 2009

15 Facts About Ron Dennis

Saturday 17th January 2009

Ron Dennis, the man who built a F1 dynasty from the McLaren team, announced on Friday that he is stepping down from his role as McLaren team boss. PF1 brings you the facts behind the man...

1. Dennis' career in motorsports started out when he was 16 years old and began working as an apprentice mechanic for the Thomson & Taylor garage at Weybridge.

2. He entered F1 in 1966 when he became a mechanic for the Cooper Formula One team where the lead driver was Jochen Rindt., who took Dennis with him to Brabham in 1968.

3. Prior to being asked to take operational control of McLaren, Dennis was in fact trying to raise funds for a Formula One team of his own - he had previously owned the Rondel Racing team in the 1970s. At the time Dennis owned a Formula 2 team, called Project 4, which was merged with McLaren to create the current McLaren F1 team.

4. The MP4 in the name of all subsequent McLaren F1 cars stands for McLaren - Project 4 - the combined names of McLaren and Dennis' own team.

5. Dennis's first big move as McLaren boss was the hiring of designer John Barnard who began work on the team's revolutionary new carbon fibre composite chassis, the MP4/1.

6. Despite not winning a single race that season, Dennis pressed on with the chassis built from carbon-fibre composite, a move that many other teams tried to follow without much success. It soon, though, yielded wins for McLaren with John Watson taking the honour of being the first McLaren driver under Dennis to win a grand prix - it was the 1981 British GP.

7. Dennis also bought out the other McLaren shareholders, Teddy Mayer and Tyler Alexander, in 1981, although today he only owns 15% of the McLaren group having sold shares to Mansour Ojjeh and then a 40% stake to Mercedes in 2000 for a reputed £200m.

8. Dennis was responsible for coaxing Niki Lauda out of retirement. The Austrian went on to win the 1984 World title with McLaren.

9. Lauda's victory was the first of ten Drivers' titles that McLaren would win with Dennis at the helm with the latest coming in 2008 when Lewis Hamilton bagged the crown. They also won seven Constructors' titles under Dennis.

10. However, with success also came controversy. Dennis was the driving force behind Paragon, McLaren's £250m technical centre near Woking. It opened in 2004 with some accusing Dennis of taking his eye off the F1 team in order to devote his attention to the new centre. The opening of Paragon largely marked the start of the rumours regarding Ron's retirement.

11. Three years later and the rumours gathered momentum in the face of the Stepneygate spy scandal that rocked F1. Dennis's team was accused and found guilty of the FIA of being in unauthorised possession of Ferrari's secret technical data. It was a low point in Dennis's career with the team boss later admitting to being the one who ratted McLaren out to FIA President Max Mosley. McLaren were handed a record $100 million fine by the FIA.

12. Dennis was, in 2000, made a Commander of the British Empire. However, subsequently a petition has been established on the British Government's Downing Street Website to ask her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to grant a knighthood to Ron for his services to motor sport, business and technology.

13. Dennis was placed at number 648 in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006 with a net worth of £90 million.

14. On February 15 2008, Dennis announced his intention to separate from his wife of 22 years, Lisa, with whom he has three children. Lisa is the author of a series of illustrated children's books during the 1990s; they followed the Formula One adventures of main characters "Mac" and "Lauren".

15. On January 16 2009 2008 Ron Dennis announced he was stepping down as McLaren team boss and handing the reigns over to CEO Martin Whitmarsh.

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