Motorsport legend and pioneer of modern open-wheeled racing Dan Gurney, born 1931 in New York, has passed away, aged 86, due to complications from pneumonia.
Most notably, Dan Gurney is one of a handful of American drivers to have won a Formula 1 race, and his four GP wins are second only to Mario Andretti’s 12 for American drivers.
Andretti’s respect for Gurney endures today, as he offers his condolences (as does his son Michael) and shares memories.
RIP Dan Gurney. I was first inspired by him when I was in midgets dreaming of being like him. I was last inspired by him yesterday. Yes, I mean forever. He understood me better than anyone else, which is why he wrote the foreword for my book in 2001 #DanGurneyHasFinishedTheRace pic.twitter.com/twMkM2Mn0U— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) January 14, 2018
So sad to hear about Dan Gurney passing today. He was an icon and blazed the path of new technologies in our sport. But mainly he was just a great guy who will be sorely missed! #RIPDanGurney— Michael Andretti (@michaelandretti) January 14, 2018
Gurney had built cars – badged ‘Eagle’ – which were raced by the likes of Bruce McLaren and Geoff Brabham across F1 and Indy respectively, as well as having driven them himself.
He is the most recent Formula 1 driver to have won in a car of his own construction. As well as this, Gurney has a couple of ‘firsts’ to his name.
It is believed Gurney was the first F1 driver to spray champagne from a podium, after his 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans victory.
Gurney also created the Gurney flap, a small addition to a car’s rear wing which can noticeably improve cornering speed and downforce without creating significant drag.
Additionally, his use of a full-faced helmet during the ’68 German Grand Prix is cited as the first time a driver opted for such a helmet in GP racing.
Gurney was also the first driver to win a Formula 1 race for Porsche, Brabham, and his own AAR team.
As well as his many achievements and influences in F1, Gurney can be credited with helping create the organisational system (Championship Auto Racing Teams, or CART) which makes Indy racing what it is today.
In its early days, poor organisation and struggling teams prompted Gurney to pen a ‘white paper’ which resulted in team owners (notably Roger Penske) creating the CART organisation.
His influence is still noted to this day, and current Indy driver Graham Rahal paid his respects, as did president of the Indianapolis Speedway Doug Boles.
#RIPDanGurney, arguably the greatest American driver of all time. Accomplished so much internationally & helped form Racing into the sport it is today. Thank you Dan, our thoughts are w/ the Gurney family at this time. #AllAmericanRacer— Graham Rahal (@GrahamRahal) January 14, 2018
When we talk about great American drivers/owners/constructors on an international stage, seldom has there been one this good! Our prayers are with Evi and the entire Gurney family! Godspeed Dan Gurney! pic.twitter.com/MLrXHFK3AX— J. Douglas Boles (@jdouglas4) January 14, 2018
Gurney’s achievements are too great and varied to list, but it’s clear the motorsport world has lost one of its greatest contributors today.