TOPEKA, Kan. (January 15, 2018) -- Dan Gurney, who was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2014, has passed away. The son of a Metropolitan Opera star in New York, a move as a teenager to Riverside, California, set him on a path to becoming a legendary sports car driver.
Like many drivers in the 1950s, Gurney started with SCCA Club races. He soon became a world-renown driver, constructor and team owner, competing at the highest levels of motorsport. On the international scene, in ways he was the definitive "overnight success." As Sports Illustrated reported in 1959, "Dan Gurney, an obscure club driver 16 months ago, has joined the Ferrari sports car team." Stunningly, but two years later in 1961, he tied British great Stirling Moss for third in the F1 Championship.
Mike Cobb, SCCA President and CEO, noted that the impact Gurney had on popularizing motorsports and the SCCA is immeasurable. To this day, his name is still one of the first that comes up when discussing SCCA's greatest racers.
"Dan Gurney was a world-class driver, innovator, engineer and competitor. A rare Eagle indeed," Cobb said. "His impact on the SCCA and international motorsports will be felt for years and years to come."
Gurney excelled in sports cars, grand prix cars, on road courses and ovals. He was the first to break the 150-mph barrier at Indianapolis. And on June 18, 1967, Gurney took a historic victory in the Belgian Grand Prix, becoming the only American to ever win an F1 race in a car of his own design.
He was the first to claim victories in all four major categories of motorsports; F1, International Sports Cars, Indy Cars, and NASCAR. He scored wins in SCCA Trans-Am, SCCA CanAm, and international championship races including the endurance classics at the Nurburgring, Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans. And at times cars from his All American Racers shop have dominated in both IMSA and Indy Cars.
Gurney was also an innovator, and at the 1968 German Grand Prix became the first driver ever to use a full-face helmet in Grand Prix racing, and was the first to do so at Indy. In 1971, he developed the Gurney Flap (wickerbill), an aerodynamic innovation that has been adopted by automobile racing and aviation throughout the world. And he was instrumental in launching the rear-engine revolution in Indianapolis in 1963.
His innovations weren't only in the field of things technological. A week before his historic win in the Belgian Grand Prix, he took a surprise victory with A.J. Foyt at 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Gurney famously began the now-familiar winner's tradition of spraying champagne from the podium.