Austrian billionaire and co-founder of energy drink company Red Bull and owner of the Red Bull Formula One racing team, dies aged 78.

Mateschitz was
Mateschitz was "a towering figure in motor sport," says Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of motor sports governing body FIA. (AFP Archive)

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, a giant in the world of energy drinks and founder of the Formula One team and a sporting empire, has died aged 78, the company said.

Red Bull expressed both its "sadness" at the Austrian billionaire's death on Saturday and "gratitude for what he accomplished".

The head of the Red Bull Formula One team, Christian Horner, described Mateschitz as a passionate supporter and the "backbone of all we do" as he paid tribute.

"It is very, very sad," said Horner, speaking at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. "A great man, one of few of a kind, for what he achieved and he has done for many people around the world and across so many sports."

Mateschitz was "a man of vision, strength of character and never afraid to follow his dreams as he did here in Formula One," he told Sky Sports F1.

"He proved you can make a difference. He was a passionate supporter and the backbone of all we do. A remarkable man and inspirational individual."

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of motor sports governing body FIA, said Mateschitz was "a towering figure in motor sport."

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

Visionary entrepreneur

Mateschitz bought the Ford-owned Jaguar team at the end of 2004 and turned it into Red Bull Racing, an outfit whose maverick image masked a fierce competitive spirit.

The Austrian also bought the Italy-based Minardi team and renamed it Toro Rosso, the Italian for Red Bull. They now compete as AlphaTauri, the company's fashion brand.

The arrival of Adrian Newey, one of the sport's greatest designers who had penned title-winning cars for Williams and McLaren, turbocharged Red Bull's progress and Germany's Sebastian Vettel won four titles in a row from 2010-13.

Red Bull also won the constructors' title in all four seasons.

"I am deeply saddened by the news that Dietrich Mateschitz, a hugely respected and much-loved member of the Formula One family has passed away," said Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

"He was an incredible visionary entrepreneur and a man who helped to transform our sport and created the Red Bull brand that is known all around the world."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies