His name may be associated with an aerodynamic part but Dan Gurney has one of the most storied racing careers in history. The racing legend passed away last January 14 due to complications stemming from pneumonia. He was 86 years old.
Daniel Sexton Gurney was born on April 13, 1931 and began racing at the age of 19. In 1950, influenced by the hot-rod scene at the time, Gurney built and raced his own car which he ran in the Bonneville Salt Flats. He managed 222 km/h from his own-built racer, an impressive feat given his age at the time. He had his first taste of open wheelers in 1957, when he tested the Arciero Special, a car using a tweaked Maserati engine and Ferrari running gear.
In 1959, Gurney was tapped by Ferrari to race in Formula One, garnering two podium finishes in his rookie year. In 1960, he raced for BRM but a viscous crash in Zandvoort left him with a broken arm and a spectator killed. The year after, he moved to Porsche and gave the German marque its first and only win in the sport as an official team. He ended his Formula One stint in with a total of four wins and 19 podiums on a mostly limited schedule.
At the same time, he was also racing in NASCAR, Trans-Am and the Indy 500. He saw success in all three racing leagues as well. Gurney stints in open wheelers, sports cars and NASCAR racers and he has also proven himself to be an accomplished endurance racer, winning Le Mans (with A.J Foyt) in 1967 with the Ford GT40.
Gurney hung the helmet in 1970 but continued being part of motorsports as a team owner. He also changed the shape of race car aerodynamics with the Gurney Flap, which helped enhance downforce. Also, he was the first driver to wear a full-face helmet in Formula One and started the tradition of spraying champagne on the podium.