Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz dead at 78, according to Formula One team

Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull owner ,  during day six of F1
Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images
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AUSTIN, Texas — Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, the co-founder of energy drink company Red Bull and a staunch motorsports supporter as the founder and owner of the Red Bull Formula One racing team, is dead at 78.

Officials with the Red Bull racing team at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, said Saturday that Mateschitz had died. There was no immediate word where he died, or a cause of death.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner paid tribute to Mateschitz shortly before its drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez got in their cars for qualifying at the U.S. race.

“He is the reason that we are here. It was his passion for Formula One and his vision. He was always enthusiastic, encouraging and supportive on the good days and the bad days,” Horner said. “I feel privileged to have known him. For the whole team now, despite the shock, we’re going to do exactly what he would have wanted, which is to go there with his cars and do the very best that we can, and try to close this constructor’s championship (title) down.”

Red Bull driver Verstappen already has secured the drivers title for a second straight season, and teammate Sergio Perez is poised for a 1-2 finish in the points.

“Without him, I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” Verstappen said of Mateschitz after qualifying third in Austin.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of motorsports governing body FIA, said Mateschitz was “a towering figure in motorsport.”

“The thoughts of all the FIA family are with his loved ones at this time and he will be greatly missed.”

Mateschitz gained fame as the public face of Red Bull, an Austrian-Thai conglomerate that says it sold nearly 10 billion cans of its caffeine and taurine-based drink in 172 countries worldwide last year.

Mateschitz not only helped the energy drink become popular around the world, but also built up a sports, media, real estate and gastronomy empire around the brand.

F1 Grand Prix of Austria
Max Verstappen greets Dietrich Mateschitz during the 2018 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring (Peter Fox/Getty Images).

With the growing success of Red Bull, he significantly expanded his investments in sports. Red Bull now operates football clubs, ice hockey teams and F1 racing teams, and has contracts with hundreds of athletes in various sports.

Mateschitz and Thai investor Chaleo Yoovidhya founded the company in 1984 after Mateschitz recognized the potential in marketing Krating Daeng – another energy drink created by Chaleo – for a western audience. Red Bull says Mateschitz worked on the formula for three years before the modified drink was launched under its new name in his native Austria in 1987.

Under Mateschitz’ stewardship, Red Bull quickly increased its market share, first in Europe, then in the United States, helped by marketing campaigns promoting the drink’s claimed stimulating properties and extensive sponsorship agreements in motorsports, soccer, extreme sports and the music industry.

The Red Bull Racing team has enjoyed success in Formula 1, winning the constructors’ championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, while German driver Sebastian Vettel won four drivers’ championships in row while signed to the team.

Red Bull operates soccer teams in top divisions across Austria, Germany, Brazil and the United States. The company started by buying Austrian club SV Austria Salzburg in 2005 and rebranding it in the company colors under the name Red Bull Salzburg.

It repeated the move in Germany, where it bought fifth-tier club SSV Markranstadt in 2009, rebranded it as RasenBallsport Leipzig, and financed its steady progress through the league system till it was promoted to the Bundesliga in 2016. German league regulations prevented the company from naming the team Red Bull Leipzig – its name in German, RasenBallsport, means “grass ball sport Leipzig” but the club just refers to itself as RB Leipzig.

Mateschitz also made headlines for his populist views. He previously criticized German chancellor Angela Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis over 2015-16. The Austrian Servus TV station, owned by Red Bull Media House GmbH, is known for promoting right-wing provocative views.

Mateschitz bought the Jaguar Racing team from previous owner Ford at the end of 2004 and rebranded it as Red Bull for the 2005 season. Later that year, he then also bought Minardi and renamed it Toro Rosso, astutely using the team as a feed team for Red Bull.

“It’s important that we recognize everything that he’s contributed to the sport,” Horner said. “Not just this sport, but it goes way, way beyond that.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”