The legendary former F1 and sports car ace Dan Gurney – a man widely credited with the tradition of spraying champagne on the podium – will be celebrating his 81st birthday today!
Along with Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney would rank among America’s all-time greatest ever racing drivers, even though the statistics would paint a vast gulf between the two in terms of results.
Motor racing ambitions were temporarily delayed when he was called up to serve in the Korean War, but he returned home after service and bought himself a Triumph TR2 to race.
As his experience improved, so too did the range of cars in which he competed, and by 1959 he found himself making his F1 debut for Ferrari, impressively finishing twice on the podium in his first three outings for the Scuderia.
Incredibly, he wasn’t held onto tight enough by Ferrari for the 1960 season, and he was instead representing BRM and moved to the infinitely more reliable Porsche for 1961. Third overall in the 1961 standings despite no race victories was an impressive feat, but he did make it to the top of the podium in 1962 at Rouen.
Indeed, the French circuit was a happy hunting ground for Gurney, as he won there again two years later driving a Brabham, ending the 1964 season with another win at the season-closing Mexican Grand Prix.
His tenure with Brabham saw him challenge the great Jim Clark, but unable to take the title on any occasion.
In many respects, it was one of the few highlights with his eponymous team in F1, with the car breaking down far too often.
Despite a couple of brief appearances for McLaren after Bruce McLaren’s untimely death, his F1 racing days were sadly over, and he concentrated on competing in the American motor racing series’ for a further decade before retiring and later taking up a role running his own team in the Indy Racing League.
Despite his considerable years, Gurney is still active in motorsport circles. A major force behind the DeltaWing concept car, his dream of seeing it race will be realised at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, with Highcroft Racing confirming that it will run an entry using this unique chassis design.