A Legend Passes – Dan Gurney: April 13, 1931 to January 14, 2018

A Legend Passes - Dan Gurney: April 13, 1931 to January 14, 2018
Photo: Anne Proffit – Dan and A.J. got together last April in Long Beach to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Ford GT

The racing legend has passed.

Dan Gurney, 86, died due to complications from pneumonia today. He had become physically frail in the past few years, but his mind was still as acute as ever. As he wished, Gurney’s funeral services will be private.

Gurney, the sole American driver to win a Formula 1 race – at Spa in 1967 – with a car of his own design and construction, was an acknowledged master of all aspects of motorsport. His acuity behind the wheel, his ingenuity in the workshop and his ability to understand the politics of racing were beyond that of his contemporaries. He could win in any aspect of the sport: in open wheel, sports cars, NASCAR – if it had wheels, he would master the discipline.

Daniel Sexton Gurney, the son of an accomplished opera singer, was born April 13, 1931, and won races in Trans-Am, Can-Am, NASCAR, Formula 1 and Indy cars. Once he retired from driving, Gurney dedicated himself to the design and construction of race cars and motorcycles, notably his self-designed Alligator motorcycle. His All American Racers’ (AAR) Eagle Indy cars were amongst the best of the best in the 1970s and through to the 1990s.

A Legend Passes - Dan Gurney: April 13, 1931 to January 14, 2018
Photo: Terry Malone – Dan at his 85th birthday party with my service animal Leah (she always jumped in his lap)

In all, AAR Eagles have earned 78 winner’s trophies over the years, including the Indianapolis 500, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring and eight championships in so many disciplines. Dan Gurney’s All American Racers Toyota-powered Eagles were dominant in IMSA’s GTP class in the early 1990s, at one point winning 17 consecutive races and taking back-to-back driver and manufacturer championships.

Personally, Gurney’s 351 racing starts brought him 51 victories and 47 podiums. He drove more than 50 makes of vehicle and in excess of 100 actual vehicle models as he competed from his beloved California home, throughout the United States, Canada and in Europe.

The driving highlights of Gurney’s career include that Belgian GP victory at Spa Francorchamps in 1967, when he became the first driver to spray champagne in celebration. In all, Gurney won four grands prix in 86 starts, driving for Ferrari, BRM, Porsche, Lotus, Brabham, McLaren and his own, AAR Eagle team. He also won the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans co-driving a Ford GT with A.J. Foyt and the duo celebrated the 50th anniversary of that victory this past April at Long Beach.

A Legend Passes - Dan Gurney: April 13, 1931 to January 14, 2018
Photo: courtesy All American Racers – these three men with Dan (from left) his first employee Bill Fowler, Ed Marsh and Terry Malone were among Gurney’s early hires at All American Racers; this photo was shot last April 2017

Gurney’s 1979 “White Paper” delineating the means to a healthy American open wheel series paved the way for Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), and his ideologies moved CART forward to where it became a challenge for NASCAR to usurp the open wheelers, which they eventually did when open wheel racing became fragmented in 1996.

Gurney is also known for his “Gurney flap” aerodynamic insert for the rear wing of an Indy car that added stability to these track-going missiles. His genius in stepping outside the box in the design and construction of racing cars and parts cemented Gurney’s reputation as a true Renaissance man in the motoring world. He was respected for his talents in finding the right solutions to most any problem

Dan Gurney’s contributions to the racing world span the spectrum. He was involved in all aspects and made friends in every discipline. He’s survived by his wife Evi and their two sons – Justin, the current president of AAR and Alex, an accomplished racer himself. Gurney’s children from his first marriage are John, Lindy, Danny and Jimmy. Gurney’s family requested any donations in his name go to Hoag Hospital Foundation, Newport Beach, Calif.

A Legend Passes - Dan Gurney: April 13, 1931 to January 14, 2018
Photo: Terry Malone – Dan with his grandchildren at his 85th birthday party in 2016
About Anne Proffit 164 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

10 Comments on A Legend Passes – Dan Gurney: April 13, 1931 to January 14, 2018

  1. I remember meeting Mr. Gurney and Mr. Yunick at Indy in 1981. They changed racing and were true innovators of the sport. My condolences to the Gurney family.
    Sincerely, Lance Buick

  2. I recall seeing a pair of Gurney Westlake heads on a dirt track car in New Zealand . It was so dominant that it left me in awe of the mans genius ever since. That was about 35 years ago.

  3. R.I.P. Mr. Gurney. You will be missed.
    You earned much respect from your peers, and your many contributions to the sport are greatly appreciated.
    Condolences to your family and friends.

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