The word legend is often used in all walks of life and is a well-worn word when sports people are discussed.
Some ‘legends’ are barely out of their twenties and still have a life to complete.
Some ‘legends’ are made from a single act or a mere moment in sport.
Some though are worthy of the epithet ‘legend’ to describe them or their actions and careers over a lifetime.
A true legend died a few days ago, aged 75 and his name was Tyler Alexander.
Not a name universally known but a name that demands admiration and the utmost respect in the world of motorsport.
Tyler, or ‘TJ’ as he was also known, was, as described by McLaren Chairman and CEO Ron Dennis, “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”.
On the McLaren teams website they say “Put simply, Tyler made things happen – quickly and efficiently with his trademark minimum of fuss.
“There were no definitions or boundaries to his role: he directed the mechanics; he machined spare parts; he arranged accommodation; he paid for last-minute airline tickets; he scrounged favours from a growing list of friends and colleagues.
“He pushed and pulled McLaren’s racecars around the world, and, once at the track, made sure they were better engineered and organised than any other team in the pitlane.”
To those who worked with Tyler, and I am enourmously proud to be one of those people, he was the archetypal and dedicated ‘racer’.
In mind, spirit, heart and body he lived and breathed motor racing and especially his beloved McLaren team.
He possesed a razor like wit, with a constant stream of one liners delivered in his American accent.
Talk to anyone who worked with Tyler over the past six decades and utter the words “God-damn” in as American accent as possible and the words could only mean one man.
In the early 1960’s Tyler met up with Bruce and proceeded over the years to work on and lead not only the Formula 1 team but the IndyCar and Can-Am teams with such an unbridled enthusiasm and dedication to the task that he carried others along with him.
It was no matter if you were the guy who painted the garage floor, the tea lady in the factory, mechanic, team owner or superstar driver, the treatment you received from Tyler was just the same.
Stories involving him abound and each and every person who worked with him has nothing but fond and humerous memories filled with admiration for him.
He spanned the transition in motorsport from relatively crude and dangerous cars through to the high tech modern machines of today but never lost his hands on approach and an engineering clarity of mind that saw through problems.
Never one to suffer fools lightly, he was also one to whom you went for advice or simply for a chat and those chats around the dinner table more often than not went on for some while with him recounting some very private stories set around the personalities of the sport and their antics.
Retiring from ‘active duty’ in 2008, Tyler continued to visit the McLaren HQ on a weekly basis, always having time for a chat or to offer help and advice.
Photography was also a passion of his and he carried his camera with him throughout his racing life, and beyond.
He recently published a book called ‘A Life and Times with McLaren’ and that book gives a fascinating insight, both pictorially and in his own words, into the sport and many of the people within it.
I was priveleged to visit with Tyler just prior to Christmas and although gravely ill after suffering a series of strokes, there was still a spark about the man and the look of the young Californian surfer about him.
Tyler was a legend and will forever remain so.