LONDON - American Teddy Mayer, the former McLaren Formula One boss who won titles with Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt in the 1970s, has died at the age of 73.

"Teddy was one of motor racing's few truly great men," McLaren team principal Ron Dennis, who succeeded Mayer after buying his shares in 1982, said in a statement on Sunday.

"He was part of the very small team of talented enthusiasts who, alongside Bruce McLaren, founded Bruce McLaren motor racing.

"The origins of our many and ongoing successes are with Bruce and Teddy," added Dennis, who is himself handing over as team principal to Martin Whitmarsh next month.

Mayer, who died in England on Friday, was a hugely competitive, if unpredictable, team boss. Hunt once said the American had fired more champions than most others had hired but Mayer was unrepentant.

"Drivers are just interchangeable light bulbs," he once said. "You plug them in and they do the job."

Mayer, whose brother Timmy was killed in a practice accident in Tasmania in 1964 while partnering Bruce McLaren in the Tasman Series, helped the New Zealander set up his team. When McLaren died in 1970, Mayer took over. Brazilian Fittipaldi provided McLaren's first title in 1974 and Britain's Hunt produced the second in 1976.