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Motorsport legend Dan Gurney has passed away

Not just a great racer, but the inventor of the Gurney flap and champagne spraying

Published: 15 Jan 2018

A motorsport legend has passed away. Dan Gurney has died at the age of 86, after complications from pneumonia. But he leaves behind not just some epic race victories, but some important motorsport developments.

He introduced the full-face helmet, as the first driver to wear one at the 1968 German Grand Prix. His off-the-cuff dousing of his team when he won Le Mans in 1967 (alongside AJ Foyt) introduced the now obligatory champagne spray to race podiums.

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Then there’s the Gurney flap, the little lip he introduced to spoilers which multiplies downforce with minimal drag. As well as being rather handy on racecars, it’s a technology that’s graduated to aerospace, too. Less well known is the Gurney bubble, built into the roof of his Ford GT40 so that his 6 feet 4 inch frame would actually fit…

There are famous victories, naturally. He was multi-disciplined, and was the first driver to notch up wins in sports cars, NASCAR, F1 and IndyCar, a feat he achieved in 1967. That same year, in one particular four-week stretch, Gurney started on the front row of the Indy 500, was victorious at Le Mans, and won the Belgian Grand Prix in a car he designed.

Other notable victories include the 1000km of the Nürburgring alongside Sir Stirling Moss, and two class wins at the Targa Florio. He was regarded as a smooth and fluid driver, but one willing to abandon that when he had a result to chase. But on top of his driving nous, he was a talented engineer and team owner, founding All American Racers with Carroll Shelby.

AAR went on to run in F1 and numerous American race series, not least the IMSA GT championship. Hired by Toyota to run its cars, the GTP-class Eagle MkIII was so dominant – with 21 victories in 27 races – it’s blamed for the collapse of the GTP class.

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His broad talents led to a ‘Dan Gurney for President’ campaign by US magazine Car & Driver, an idea circulated by his loyal fans in four-yearly periods then on. He’s the kind of president we could get on board with.

“With one last smile on his handsome face, Dan drove off into the unknown just before noon today, January 14, 2018,” a statement from Evi Gurney, the Gurney family and his AAR teammates read. “In deepest sorrow, with gratitude in our hearts for the love and joy you have given us during your time on this earth, we say ‘Godspeed’."

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