Let's be honest: a complete semblance of Dan Gurney it would require an encyclopedia volume. It is hard to know where to start. And no, it is not a mere literary exaggeration. We are talking about the first driver to win in both Indy and F1 and NASCAR. A man so used to being on the podium that he created his own - now universal - way of celebrating victory: showering the audience with champagne as a "spray". And it is that there were 98 times he finished in the top three, being the absolute winner 7 times in the USAC -IndyCar-, 5 in NASCAR and 4 in F1.
But it is that, in addition to winning ... he wanted to do it his way. That is why he trained in engineering and built his own cars with Caroll Shelby in All American Racers. A whole character capable both of organizing Porsche for victory and of getting out of Ferrari itself by not putting up with its mechanics. A student of aerodynamics, creator of something that is almost always crowning the rear wings: the Gurney fin. In short, one of those hyperactive types that make you think ... And me, what am I doing with my life? How can I be more like Dan Gurney?
THE FORGING OF A REBEL
He born in 1931, Dan Gurney was a rebel from a young age. One of those that never quite fit anywhere. That's why his competition history is full of teams, even his own. He began his career in 1955, competing in his native country: the United States. Always at the forefront of private teams, equipped with Maserati or Ferrari engines. Its results were so good that it caught the attention of F1, where it made its debut in 1959 at the controls of a Reims.
However, his driving skills I would take it further to Ferrari. Yes, that same year he was hired by the house of Horse Any other first-time F1 driver would be delighted, but Gurney had a different kind of character. Unable to get along with the Italian mechanics, he left after only four races; genius and figure ... to the grave. However, no one can say that Gurney did not know how to work as a team; On the contrary, he took three teams that had not yet known victory in F1 to the top: Brabham, Eagle - his own team - and Porsche.
FROM GERMANY TO AMERICA PASSING THROUGH ENGLAND
It was with the German brand where Dan Gurney marked a true turning point. And it is that, although it was only from 1961 to 62 ... it was "With Porsche where I really learned to drive, because they gave me cars that did not break constantly, being able to travel the kilometers faster than ever". Porsche has always appreciated Gurney's collaboration in developing the 804 eight-cylinder. Still, his only F1 victory remains that of Gurney at the 1962 French GP.
While Porsche lagged behind in F1… Dan Gurney went on to do by the British Brabham a winning team, giving them victory in the French and Mexican GPs in 1964. However, as we have said, Gurney was a restless spirit and he was not worth winning, but wanted to do it his way. The individualism proper to the American spirit… For this reason, in 1964, he allied himself with another myth of the American engine: Caroll Shelby. The great project of his life was born ...
FROM PILOT TO ENGINEER. ALL AMERICAN RACERS
Both Caroll Shelby and Dan Gurney were well aware of F1 and European endurance racing. And for that very reason they knew that in them the Americans were Rare avis. They founded their own team in California, the All American Racers. A team that spent four years in F1 under the name of Eagle Mk1; four years in which his only victory was that of Gurney himself in the 1967 Belgian GP, finishing with that obtained in the 24 Hours of LeMans Just a week later!
Victoria at the controls of a Ford GT40 from the Shelby team. Of course… a whole year of success for the American motor in Europe. What is said "Plant a pike in Flanders". However, if the All American Racers are experts in something, it is in the competitions of the Americans. Not for nothing was Gurney himself a race winner in both NASCAR and IndyCar ... And that is why he was able to put all his experience at the service of the development of AAR cars when he retired from racing in 1970.
THE FIN OF VICTORY
It was at AAR where he fully developed his most innovative facet. The one that had led him to be the first pilot to wear a full face helmet; or the one for which he spent hours working with the mechanics to improve the car. In fact, in one of those marathon days of circuit work, the one that is his main invention emerged: the "Gurney fin". Specifically at the Phoenix circuit, developing an AAR car in 1971.
The car was not going well, it was slow. Also, it had little grip on the rear. Gurney, a born improviser but also a profound student of aerodynamics, devised a small piece of aluminum attached to the rear wing. Although the car was still going slow and everything seemed a failure, the driver Bobby Unser He left the car excited: Now he was holding a lot more. So much so that he was understeer. With a few small adjustments to the front ... they already had a winning car. And the world of competition is one of the most common aerodynamic elements today.
The AAR project was thus consolidating itself into a reference in the world of competition directed solely by Gurney after he bought his share from Shelby in 1970. Since then, about 160 cars have left its facilities, which have shone in the Indy, the Formula Ford, different endurance tests such as the 24 at Daytona ... All thanks to the technological vision of a pioneer man in working with carbon parts and who, until his recent death, continued to innovate. In fact, it is estimated that this year 2018 will see the light of his latest creation, the revolutionary '4 Stroke Engine' motorcycle engine.
DAN GURNEY: AN ENCYCLOPEDIC LIFE
As you can see, we were not exaggerating with what we said at the beginning: to make the profile of Dan Gurney you would need an encyclopedia volume. Driver, designer, businessman, F1 champion, endurance, American categories ... it is almost immeasurable. And don't forget the champagne anecdote!
Dan Gurney was also a cheerful and optimistic person; perhaps such a life cannot be approached otherwise. Full of energy and legends of the engine. Wherever you are, you will probably keep studying aerodynamics, or hitting full throttle. We would say that of "rest in peace", but knowing Dan Gurney ... we don't think he's getting much rest.