Racing legend Dan Gurney dead at 86

By: James Robinson, Unique Cars magazine

Dan Gurney Dan Gurney
Dan Gurney Dan Gurney

One of the greats

Dan Gurney, one of America’s greatest ever race car drivers, has passed away due to complications caused by pneumonia, aged 86.

Gurney, who took part in just about every form of motorsport in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, was a true pioneer of motorsport.

His racing career began in amateur drag car and sports car racing in his late teens, with Gurney himself building a drag car in 1950 that could hit a whopping 222km/h on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Gurney would go on to race at the pinnacle of motorsport, Formula 1, for a number of different teams including Ferrari, BRM, Porsche and Brabham.

In a stunning move for his career, Gurney then began designing, engineering and racing his own race cars in Formula 1, and in 1967 at the Belgium Grand Prix, Gurney crossed the chequered flag in first place behind the wheel of his own car, a feat that very few racecar drivers have ever been able to achieve.

That same year, Gurney, along with co-driver AJ Foyt, raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40 and won, which was quite a remarkable feat considering Gurney was so tall that Ford had to make a special bubble in the GT40’s roofline to accommodate his head.

It was on that podium at Le Mans in 1967 that Gurney spontaneously started shaking and spraying his victory Champagne everywhere, a tradition that has been embraced by the racing fraternity to this day.

Gurney is also credited for inventing the right angle extension on the upper trailing edge of a racecars rear wing, which you and I know as the ‘Gurney Flap’.

When he retired from racing in 1970, Gurney had notched up 51 career wins and a bunch more podiums across a number of different racing disciplines including Indy Car, Trans AM, Sports Cars, F1 and NASCAR.

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