John Hogan, a hugely respected pioneer in Formula 1 sponsorship who was instrumental in brokering Ron Dennis’ McLaren takeover, has died of a COVID-related illness at the age of 76.

Hogan was best known for his work with Philip Morris, overseeing deals with McLaren and Ferrari that led to F2 world championship victories for Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.

Hogan arrived in the series at a time when sponsorship hunting and exploitation was still in its infancy.

He was a key player in moving the goalposts and showing what could be done as Bernie Ecclestone expanded the series’ horizons, and TV coverage became more important.

Australian by birth, Hogan once recalled that his interest in racing was first sparked by seeing a Clark Gable Indy 500 movie – To Please a Lady – when he was about six.

Later he moved to England for his education, meeting future film star Malcolm McDowell at school. McDowell’s father ran a pub near the Aintree circuit, and Hogan attended his first race at the venue and became hooked.

At a Cambridge University crammer course in London he became friends with a group of like-minded motoring enthusiasts, including Piers Courage, who spent all their free time fettling cars.

In the late 1960s, he entered the advertising business, and an association with Coca Cola led to an early involvement with racing through modest backing for F3 drivers James Hunt and Gerry Birrell.

He subsequently found support for the Rondel F2 team run by Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle.

In 1973 he joined Philip Morris. The US company’s Marlboro brand was already involved with BRM, and it was on Hogan’s watch that it switched to McLaren with Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974.

The Brazilian won the world championship that year, getting the new relationship off to a perfect start.

When Fittipaldi made a shock move to the family Copersucar team at the end of 1975, Hogan was instrumental in getting his old friend Hunt into McLaren leading to the Englishman’s famous title win in 1976.

In the late 1970s, Hogan brokered a deal for McLaren to join forces with the nascent Project 4 outfit, having recognised that Ron Dennis had the vision to turn things around.

The carbon fibre MP4/1 duly won the 1981 British Grand Prix in John Watson’s hands, and the team became a major force once more.

Hogan would oversee Marlboro’s dealings with McLaren all the way through the Alain Prost/Ayrton Senna Honda era, while also building up a parallel relationship with Ferrari.

Philip Morris finally parted ways with McLaren at the end of 1996, and put its full focus on Maranello.

The decision signalled the start of an unprecedented era of success with Michael Schumacher, who would win the first of five titles with Ferrari in 2000.

Marlboro’s racing involvement trickled down to the feeder categories, and much like Red Bull today over the decades the company gave many young drivers a helping hand.

Hogan left Philip Morris in 2002, part way through Schumacher’s title-winning run.

In search of a new challenge he had a brief spell as sporting director of Jaguar Racing – his time as a the sponsor representative on the F1 Commission gave him insight that was useful to any team – but the Milton Keynes outfit was in disarray, and he soon left.

He subsequently worked as a consultant for current McLaren CEO Zak Brown’s JMI marketing and sponsorship concern.

On Sunday, Brown paid tribute on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by John Hogan passing away this morning after a brave battle with the effects of COVID.

“John was a gentleman, a pioneer and a legend of motorsport and Formula 1. On a personal level he was a brilliant mentor and friend.”

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