The rise of Ron Dennis, the mechanic
Posted 12 January 2003 - 08:51
So, if you haven't already figured it out by now, I am primarily talking about the young Dennis of the sixties and seventies.
Posted 12 January 2003 - 09:13
Out of topic,but Just asking..
Posted 12 January 2003 - 13:48
Posted 14 January 2003 - 08:06
Posted 14 January 2003 - 10:41
Posted 14 January 2003 - 11:16
Within 18 months, Mayer could no longer tolerate working with Dennis and demanded a show down. Dennis told Mayer to come up with a valuation for the company - either for Dennis to sell out to Mayer or to buy Mayer out - clever tactics and quite a quandary for Mayer!! In the event Dennis decided to buy out Mayer with the help of a bank loan, and together with John Barnard became joint shareholder of McLaren International. Barnard later sold out to Mansour Ojjeh who took 60% shareholding but was and remains a non-executive director of what is now TAG McLaren Group.
Below is an extract from Dennis' biography - which sheds some interesting light on his character and motivations:
By the colorful standards of many of the team's competitors, the silver-gray and black McLaren cars and motor homes are sober and cold looking. But by most accounts Dennis's infinite capacity for caring makes McLaren a warm place to work.
Gerhard Berger, who drove for McLaren from 1990 to 1992 alongside Ayrton Senna, said, ''It's not the impression one gets from the outside, but once you are one of his group, even if you have a bad day, he backs you up and he stays behind you, whether it's mechanics, drivers, or engineers.''
Dennis cares so much about bringing success to the team that he is said to suffer physical pain if it does not win.
Dennis noted that failure is seen by millions of television viewers. ''It's a very painful experience to go back to your hometown and have the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker and the guy that cuts your hair, your wife, your kids, there's nowhere to hide.''
It was also in caring about the way he appeared to his family that drove him to a career in motor racing in the first place. He said two taunts deeply embarrassed him, the first when he was about 10.
''I was watching a male ballet dancer on television,'' he said, ''and I said, 'I believe that anyone that wants to be a ballet dancer can be, and it is only a question of having the desire.' To which there was a normal brotherly nasty remark made, and everybody in the whole house falling around laughing.''
The embarrassment was even worse when as a teenager he said he planned to go into car racing.
''Again it was lots of jibes and laughter, from my brother specifically,'' he said. ''And it lit in me a deep determination that has always filled me with a sort of, 'I'll show them,' attitude. And a commitment to do whatever was necessary to get into motor sport.''
He started as a teenager by serving coffee and cleaning up the garage at the Brabham team, working for free while living at home until he was 22. By then he was already a race veteran. His first race was when he was 18, and he went as a mechanic with the Cooper team to the Mexican Grand Prix in 1966.
''I was at least 10 years younger than anyone else in the pit lane and probably closer to 20,'' he said. ''And that was a big advantage when five, 10 years down the road I had all the experience that would normally be attributable to someone who was 40, 50 years old.''
He rose through the hierarchy to become chief mechanic, the equivalent of a team manager today. A turning point came when his then team owner, Jack Brabham, gave him complete responsibility for his Formula Two team.
''Because we had Formula One competence that we applied to a lower category, the team was very successful and it pretty much re-wrote the way that you went motor racing,'' he said. ''We put total emphasis on preparation. We had the most immaculate racing cars and transporters and workshops. Dirt was something that we just fought against. And it put us in a different league.''
It was the beginning of the Dennis reputation for cleanliness in a sport that is fundamentally about grease. His 350-person race team is issued McLaren clothes it must wear even back at the spotless factory.
The professionalism not only appeals to Dennis's personal manias, but impresses sponsors. In the late 1970s the Philip Morris Co., the main sponsor of the ailing McLaren team, took notice of his skill and approach and invited Dennis to join them. He merged his team of the time, called Project Four, with McLaren to form McLaren International.
With an engineer named John Barnard, he created a car made of carbon composites, which eventually won both the drivers' and constructors' titles in 1984 with Niki Lauda at the wheel. Now every Formula One car has a carbon chassis.
Through the second half of the 1980s the team dominated the sport with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, who together won 15 of the 16 races in 1988. Prost left in 1990, and Senna left after the 1993 season, at the start of the most difficult period for the team.
''We essentially went into self-destruction mode,'' Dennis said. ''We had become so used to winning that it seemed there was nothing we could do to not win. And we lost sense of things.''
He hired Hakkinen in 1993 and Coulthard in 1996. But the pivotal moment was when he took on Mercedes as an engine supplier in 1995. After a couple of bad years with Sauber, the German car manufacturer was hungry for victory, and McLaren's longest winless streak ended in 1997 at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix by Coulthard. It won both the constructors and the drivers' championships in 1998 and the drivers' championship in 1999.
Dennis said the team's goal is to win every race. But he said the International Automobile Federation, the sport's governing body, would never allow it. Last year at the Malaysian Grand Prix McLaren had won the constructors' world championship until an appeal court overturned a steward's decision that the Ferrari cars were illegal.
''In my more paranoid moments I think they're out to get us,'' he said. ''But all that means is that when we win, we really have to win by all that much more.''
Hope this helps...
Posted 14 January 2003 - 11:33
Originally posted by WGD706
Jack Brabham's surprising second places at Monaco and Brands Hatch in '70 after such a strong showing in both races, only to lose to Jochen Rindt in both places after locking up his brakes and sliding into the tv camera/haybales at Monaco and running out of fuel in England after a certain Ron Dennis got the fuel metering unit screwed up (allegedly).
Your "allegedly" is absolutely correct - Sir Jack was convinced it was Ron who had set the mixture control that morning and had left it there - at dinner with his friend and former mechanic Nick Goozee (of subsequent Penske team fame) this very year, Nick owned up... it was his error. 'Blackie' thought this was a huge joke - having spent years rubbishing Dah-doo-Ron-Ron...
Well, I never knew that!! Thanks Doug...
So now can anyone tell me why Ron never refuted the allegation, and why he has always covered up for Nick Gozee? I know he is famous for never pointing the finger within the McLaren team (OK, pace "brainfade" comments) but that really is taking loyalty/friendship to extremes.
Strange man, Mr Dennis. Admirable, too...
Posted 14 January 2003 - 11:48
Originally posted by Oscar Jack
Hope this helps...
Sure, thanks Oscar!
Posted 17 July 2010 - 10:30
My view is he is deeply misunderstood and in my opinion the most important man in F1 in the 80s and 90s - he redefined how a modern team should be run.
I couldn't agree more, second only to Bernie, and the only 'anti-Ron' I can recall is ex-colleague Jo Ramirez. Various reviews of his book Memoirs of a Racing Man praised him for "Telling the truth about Ron Dennis", but I thought that it told us a lot more about Jo Ramirez than it did about Ron. I think it's the only time I ever disagreed seriously with Pete Fenelon over a book, he liked it, and I thought it was a sad little whinge, like a small boy ringing doorbells and running off before he could get caught. Ron's achievements speak for themselves.
Posted 17 July 2010 - 21:28
but once you are one of his group, even if you have a bad day, he backs you up and he stays behind you, whether it's mechanics, drivers, or engineers.''
Except for Davey Ryan, of course.
Posted 18 July 2010 - 07:40
I can almost imagine Eddie tearing his hair out.
'Off', you mean, I think. You can't pull out what's not there...
Posted 18 July 2010 - 07:48
I was imagining using imaginary hair.
'Off', you mean, I think. You can't pull out what's not there...