Dan Gurney

Dan Gurney

13/4/1931 - 14/1/2018

Daniel Sexton Gurney was born April 13, 1931, in Port Jefferson, Long Island, to John Gurney, a Metropolitan Opera star, and his wife Roma Sexton. Following high school, his family moved to Riverside, California, where Dan developed his driving skills by weaving through Southern California orange groves. He graduated from Menlo Junior college and served two years with the United States Army, most of that time overseas in the Korean War.

Dan has had 3 very successful careers A) Racing Driver B) Racecar Manufacturer / Inventor and C) long term team owner.

In the spring of 2002 Dan surprised the automotive world by branching out into a new field of endeavor. He introduced his revolutionary single cylinder Alligator motorcycle, a project in the making for 2 decades

His racing career, which started with a Triumph TR2 in 1955, spanned 15 years. During that time he became the top road racing star in America, as well as one of the most popular F1 Grand Prix drivers ever. Gurney etched himself a place in racing lore with exciting battles against drivers like Jimmy Clark, John Surtees, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Phil Hill and many others on the classic road courses of the Nuerburgring, the Targa Florio and Monte Carlo. He remains the only US citizen to win a Grand Prix in a car of his own construction.

With his success, the Dan Gurney fan club flourished, with a worldwide membership that included people from behind the Iron Curtain. In fact, at one point, Car and Driver magazine launched a "Dan Gurney for President" campaign that is periodically resurrected.

By the time he retired from active driving in 1970, Gurney had raced in 303 events in 20 countries with 25 different makes of cars winning 48 races and finishing on the podium an additional 41 times! Among his most important victories: 7 Formula One races (four Grand Prix World Championship events), 7 Indy Car races, 5 NASCAR Winston Cup stockcar races (all 500 mile races in Riverside, California), and two second place finishes at the "Indy 500". Additionally he captured wins in Trans-Am, Can-Am and Sports car races including the endurance classics at the Nuerburgring, Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans. He claimed 37 career pole positions and started on the front row of the grid an additional and astonishing 58 times! The many "races that got away", i.e. those that Dan was leading - often by a considerable margin - but could not finish due to mechanical problems, made him almost as famous and popular as the wins.

This versatile and winning record made Dan the first driver ever to win races in the four major categories of motorsports: Grand Prix, Indy Car, NASCAR and Sports Car. To this day he is one of only two drivers in history (the other being Mario Andretti) who have ever accomplished that.

At the 1966 Belgium GP at Spa, Dan Gurney was driving his new car, the Eagle, all be it without the V12 Weslake which was not ready. Spa is well know for the rain that can fall in torrents, however the shower that came that year was unusual. Inside the new Eagle, Gurney was feeling the call of nature. It was getting worse and being unable to wait until the end of the race and not wanting to spoil his new race car, he stopped by the side of the track and infront of some very suprised spectators, proceeded to take a leak against the bank. He got back in restarted the engine and finished the race. He was unclassified as he had not completed enough laps. 

While his second and third career as a race car manufacturer of the Eagles as well as team owner of AAR started while he was still actively driving, it went into full gear upon his retirement in 1970. At that time he bought out AAR co-founder Carroll Shelby and has been sole owner, chairman and CEO of the company ever since. AAR has been designing and manufacturing race cars with great success during the last 30 years, winning 8 Championships and capturing 78 victories and 83 pole positions, including the Indy 500 and the 12 hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona. 66 drivers from around the globe have been employed at AAR between the years 1965 and 2000, the last one being Dan's son Alexander Gurney who raced in the Atlantic Series.

Eagles bought by customers raced on the Indy circuit and Formula A/5000 circuit with great success, capturing numerous victories, most notably the Indy 500 twice with Bobby Unser in1968 and Gordon Johncock in 1973, plus 3 Championships in Indy Cars and Formula A.

In 2002 he was credited as being the only man to succeed in building and racing a winning F1 car, a winning Indy Car, a winning sports car and a revolutionary motorcycle.

Gurney has been a pioneer of racing innovations. In 1971 he developed the Gurney Flap. An invention which has been adopted by the automobile racing and aviation industries throughout the world. He was the first race car driver to introduce a full-face helmet to Indy Car racing as well as Grand Prix racing. He was instrumental in launching the rear-engine revolution in Indianapolis in 1963. He is the only American in modern day Grand Prix racing who built and raced his own Formula One car to victory (1967 Grand Prix of Belgium). His exuberant gesture of spraying champagne into the crowd from the victory podium in Le Mans 30 years ago has been emulated worldwide by winners ever since.

One of the original founders of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), Gurney came up with the name and acronym. He was instrumental in bringing Monte Carlo-type street car racing to the United States and became a co-founder of the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1974 where he continued to serve on its Board of Directors for 24 years.

Gurney is no stranger to Hollywood either. A member of the Screen Actors Guild since 1965, Gurney has appeared in such motor racing films as 'Winning', 'A Man and a Woman', and 'Grand Prix'. His win of the 'Cannonball Run' across the United States in 1971 inspired his friend and co-pilot Brock Yates to write the screenplay for the 'Cannonball' movies. His long term relationship with Toyota started in 1982 when Dan was hired by the company to do TV commercials for the introduction of the Supra. This relationship has resulted in three Drivers and three Manufacturers championships for the auto maker.

An avid reader of political and military history, Gurney loves old movies, opera, cigars, traveling to historical places and riding motorcycles. Gurney and his wife, Evi, who was a junior executive in the public relations/press department of Porsche in Stuttgart and a well-known motorsports journalist in Germany during the sixties, have two sons. Dan has four grown children from his first marriage and four grandchildren. They live in Newport Beach, California.

Dan Gurney died on the14th Jan 2018 after a long battle with pneumonia. He was 86.

His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc.

“With one last smile on his handsome face, Dan drove off into the unknown just before noon today,” said the statement signed by Evi Gurney, the Gurney family and AAR teammates.

http://www.allamericanracers.com with additions from historicracing.com

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