One of America’s greatest racers, Dan Gurney, has passed away at the age of 86. On top of his winning races in Formula One, Indy cars, NASCAR, sports cars, Can-Am and Trans-Am, Gurney achieved the most fame by beginning the tradition of spraying champagne to celebrate a race win.
Having taken first place at the Le Mans 24-Hour in 1967 Gurney grabbed the magnum of high-end champagne and sprayed the crowd in a spontaneous celebration of Ford’s second Le Mans title in the GT40. This has become the standard for celebrating a race win throughout motorsport since then, and the bottle Gurney sprayed is proudly displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles today.
Gurney was one of only three drivers to take wins in sports cars, NASCAR, Formula One and Indy racing, the others being Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya. The tall Californian also holds a unique record as the only driver to give three marques (Brabham, Porsche and his own All-American Racers) their maiden F1 victory.
Gurney’s AAR team would be fierce competitors across both open-wheel and closed-wheel series, including IMSA, Indy cars and Trans-Am. In 1971 Gurney and journalist Brock Yates won the first official Cannonball Run in a borrowed Ferrari 365 GTB/4 “Daytona”, setting a record for the fastest coast-to-coast journey across America at the time of 35 hours, 54 minutes.
Dan Gurney survived the most dangerous era of circuit racing, and passed away overnight from pneumonia at 86 years of age.