Dan Gurney - One of the Best, A Rememberance
By Arnaud Blanfuney
Although not in the best health lately, Dan Gurney's passing shocked the entire motor racing community. Fair, modest, friendly, courageous, and always looking forward, Gurney was the embodiment of the American spirit in many ways. And he competed in and won in just about every form of racing he tried.
Born on April 13, 1931 in Long Island, Daniel Sexton Gurney graduated from high school, then moved with his family to Riverside, where he studied at Menlo Junior College, then served two years with the United States Army, most of that time overseas in the Korean War.
His competition career started with a Triumph TR2 in 1955 and he then continued on to a Porsche with which he achieved considerable success. From 1957, Gurney drove the 4.9 liter Arciero Ferrari that had started life as Tony Parravano's 375 Plus. Shelby crashed it at Palm Springs in 1955, so Parravano had its wheelbase shortened and Sutton of Los Angeles to install a new aluminum body. Dan worked wonders with it.
Gurney's talents were thus recognized by Luigi Chinetti who offered him a drive in a Testa Rossa at Le Mans 1958. He then joined the works Ferrari team for 1959, and began by sharing the winning car at Sebring. He retired afterwards at the Targa Florio and Le Mans, and took fifth places at the Nurburgring and the Tourist Trophy. Enzo also gave him his chance in Grand Prix.
But the atmosphere in Maranello did not suit him, and he left to drive for BRM in 1960, but this was a poor season. More successful in sports cars, he won that year the Nurburgring 1000 km in a Birdcage Maserati with Stirling Moss. After his leaving from Maranello, Gurney still drove Ferraris on some opportunities.
He passed away due to complications from pneumonia.
A full testimonial to Dan Gurney is in the April 1 issue of Cavallino, No. 224. Subscribe today.
Images from Arnaud Blanfuney and The Klemantaski Collection.