Dan Gurney: in their own words

The motor sport fraternity pays tribute to Dan Gurney

Dario Franchitti, triple Indianapolis 500 winner
“Rest in peace, Dan. We’ll never see your like again. With humility, grace, charm and humour, you did it all.”

AJ Foyt, Shared winning Ford with Gurney at Le Mans; four-time Indy 500 winner
“Dan was not only a great innovator, he was a great driver and it didn’t matter if it was a road course or an oval, an Indycar or a stock car. I never use the word ‘legend’ but in the case of Dan, he was a true legend of our sport.

“We became close friends at Le Mans in ’67 and winning it brought us closer together. He was a super guy. Even though we were competitors in Indycars, we always respected each other highly. It’s hard to believe he’s gone and I’m really going to miss him.”

Pierre Fillon, ACO president
“A motor sporting legend has left us. Dan Gurney was not only a talented driver and a charming man, but also a successful team boss, creator and inventive spirit.”

Simon Arron, Motor Sport features editor
“To claim I ‘knew’ Dan Gurney would be wrong, but I did interview him. Once when I sought his counsel, Gurney’s PA Kathy Weida sent me an apologetic reply: he was away on a skiing trip, but she’d try to pass on a message. Five minutes later, another email: ‘Dan’s at his chalet. Here’s the number, he’s awaiting your call…’ His grace and courtesy came as no surprise.

“When I’d spoken to him previously, about his Le Mans win, he was as engaging as anyone I’d interviewed. And then, a fortnight later, I received some unexpected mail: a 1967 Le Mans poster, signed by Dan, thanking me for having written the feature.

“I’ve always felt gratitude was due only in the other direction.”

Doug Nye, friend, historian and Motor Sport contributor
“Dan was certainly a great driver, but above all a fine man. He was a most patriotic American but he was also an Anglophile with real interest in military history ever since he first began racing in Europe. There’s that lovely story of him at Silverstone in ’78 for the CART race when he recognised a ‘plane circling overhead, rushed out of the garage bawling ‘Spitfire! Spitfire!’ – and triggered a panic as teams heard someone shouting ‘Pit fire! Pit fire!’

“At Goodwood one year my young son and I sat with him and wife Evi – lovely lady – under the giant cedar tree on the back lawn, to talk about the Lotus-Ford Indy saga that he’d fathered. In between describing the problems he’d experienced on his car, and in showering moist-eyed praise upon his old team-mate – and much-missed friend – Jim Clark, he spent as long asking me about the Goodwood Estate and the Duke’s family history.

“At the Festival of Speed, when he found the throttle sticking on his Belgian GP Eagle sent over by the Collier Collection, my pal the curator Scott George opened up the slide-cases and found the rollers inside caked with white mag corrosion powder. Dan worked with Scott as they painstakingly cleaned it all out, oiled the assembly and zipped it back together again – and then dear old Dan – who never, ever, got the racing bug out of his system – blasted up the hill for the rest of the weekend.

“But the larrikin college boy survived just below the surface. One time after testing at Donington he drove me back down the M1, reminiscing about his very quick Texan driver friend Lloyd Ruby. ‘He’d never think twice about passing traffic on the freeway verge – see these guys ahead? He’d just do this…’ and he flicked the steering left and we hurtled up the motorway’s grassy bank at about 80mph, bounded along for 50 yards or so, then back down to the tarmac – with Dan aping the frenzied driver. He was a great innovator, incredibly versatile and just a thoroughly good guy. I regarded him as a complete hero…”

Bobby Rahal, Indycar team owner and Road Racing Drivers Club president
“Not only was he an outrageously talented racing car driver and an influential businessman, team owner and car constructor, Daniel Sexton Gurney was a gentleman, in every definition of that word. His magnetic smile, his sense of humour and absolute love of all things motor racing is unsurpassed.

“He was an international star, yet a humble celebrity. His devotion to his family was evident in the support he provided his sons to follow in his footsteps, on the racetrack and in the boardroom.
“With his wife Evi by his side, Dan could conquer the world. He conquered our hearts.”

Darrell Waltrip, three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion
“I’ve known and competed against the greatest drivers of all time. Dan Gurney was a hero of mine, not just because he was a great racer but because he was a great person.”

Sir Jackie Stewart, period rival, triple F1 champion
“Dan was a wonderful friend – I feel privileged and proud to have had him as a friend, and for him to consider me a friend. He was one of the greatest gentlemen in Formula 1, in a class with Fangio and Moss. His manners, deportment – his sheer presence were almost without match.

“He was also fast, and the cleanest driver you could race against. He had the intuition and mind-management that meant you could race in the closest proximity. We all had a respect for each other that’s beyond the comprehension of today’s generation, but Dan could have expressed that without insulting anyone today. He had terrific charm, humour and integrity. Those posters saying ‘Gurney for President’ weren’t out of order – he had a logic and a manner of delivery that were very convincing, and he had huge common sense.

“It was because he was so well respected that he was able to take on the challenge of creating a new team. I know how hard it was creating Stewart Racing – but he was still racing when he did it! It must have been very, very stressful, yet he always had that big smile.

He was modest too – he was very touched when Charles March had that big celebration for him at Goodwood. He really appreciated that.”
I had the greatest admiration for him as a driver and as a friend. It’s a great loss.”