How Dan Gurney became the first driver to spray podium champagne

Dan Gurney and A J Foyt scored Ford’s second consecutive Le Mans victory... and a new champagne-spraying racing tradition was but moments away


Gurney launches a tradition, as he sprays the Moet after winning at Le Mans

Keystone France via Getty Images

Le Mans 24 Hours, June 10-11 1967

The theorists said it was a pairing ill conceived for the delicate art of endurance driving, because Dan Gurney and A J Foyt were racers to the core. Gurney knew all about Le Mans, though – this was, after all, his 10th attempt – and understood its finer points. It remained to be seen whether Foyt, winner of the Indianapolis 500 just a couple of weeks beforehand, could grasp them, too.

This was another of the Ford vs Ferrari epics that gripped Le Mans during the mid-Sixties. Ford had ended Ferrari’s winning streak the previous season and Maranello was out for revenge: at the time it would have seemed inconceivable that Ferrari’s outright win in 1965 might still be its last such success almost 50 years later.

Graphic showing Dan Gurney spraying champagne into the crowd at 1967 Le Mans 24 HoursFoyt and Gurney assumed control early on in their Shelby-prepared Ford MkIV, drove to a target lap time and looked ever more secure as misfortune struck other Fords (three being eliminated in a single accident at about half-distance). In the end, the two Americans finished four laps clear of the rest, headed by the Ferrari 330 P4 of Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti.

It was the start of a good week for Gurney, who seven days later took his Eagle-Weslake to victory in the Belgian GP at Spa.

It was in Le Mans’ immediate slipstream that another tradition was born, one that is nowadays part of a slickly drilled podium routine in all spheres of the sport. Back then, Gurney was holding the victory Champagne and felt the gathered photographers were expecting him to do something. So he flipped the cork and sprayed the contents over all and sundry (including, apparently, Mr and Mrs Henry Ford). “It was,” he said, “just a spur of the moment thing.”

An instinctive reflex, perhaps, but it became a motor sport staple that has so far lasted 47 summers, and counting…


Gurney pops the cork

Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

1967 Le Mans 24 Hours

View race