George Bignotti, 1916-2013

Indycar Racing News

One of America’s most successful chief mechanics passed away last Friday. George Bignotti, 97, was a renowned IndyCar crew chief through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Bignotti’s cars won seven Indy 500s and more than 80 IndyCar races. His career took off in the early ’60s in partnership with AJ Foyt, who won the Indy 500 in Bignotti-prepared cars in 1961 and ’64. Bignotti’s other Indy 500 winners were Graham Hill in ’66, Al Unser in ’70 and ’71, Gordon Johncock in ’73 and Tom Sneva in ’83.

Bignotti was born in San Francisco and followed his older brothers Al and John into racing, working on midgets and sprint cars before breaking into Indycar racing in the mid-’50s. Bignotti was AJ Foyt’s chief mechanic from 1960-64 and the pair established themselves as the men to beat in Indycar racing in that era before Bignotti joined Texas oil man John Mecom’s team. Mecom was Lola’s US importer at the time for Can-Am and Indycars. Parnelli Jones raced Mecom’s Bignotti-prepared Lola T70 Can-Am car and Graham Hill won the Indy 500 in 1966 aboard a Bignotti-prepared Lola T90.

After Jones retired from driving he started Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing and Bignotti went to work for VPJ, winning the Indy 500 with Al Unser in 1970 and ’71 and the USAC Championship with Unser in 1970 and Joe Leonard in 1971 and ’72. “George Bignotti was the guy who made our team work in those days,” Parnelli remarks. “He was one of those guys who could do anything. He did beautiful work and he made our cars sanitary and reliable. He was a great chief mechanic.”

In 1973 Bignotti moved to Pat Patrick’s STP team with Gordon Johncock and Wally Dallenbach driving a pair of Eagle-Offies. Johncock won the ‘73 Indy 500 for Patrick and Bignotti but the race was riven by tragedy after one of the team’s crewmen was killed in a pitlane accident and the talented and promising Swede Savage was badly burned in a fiery accident in one of Patrick’s cars. Savage died a month later.

Graham Hill at Indianapolis in 1966 in a Bignotti-prepared Lola

Bignotti continued to run Patrick’s team through the seventies with Johncock winning the USAC Championship in 1976. Bignotti left Patrick at the end of 1980 to start his own team. Bignotti developed March’s fast but fragile new Indycars into reliable machines capable of withstanding the high loads generated on oval tracks and Tom Sneva won at Milwaukee and Phoenix in ’81 and ’82 before finally winning the Indy 500 in ’83 aboard Bignotti’s March 83C.

At the end of that year Bignotti sold his team to Dan Cotter but continued as chief mechanic with Roberto Guerrero driving. Guerrero finished second to Rick Mears at Indianapolis in 1984 and was co-rookie of the year with Michael Andretti. After retiring, Bignotti continued to do research work and act as a spokesman for Mobil and was a regular visitor to the Indy 500 and other Indycar races for many years.

Click here for more on IndyCar from Gordon Kirby

indycar  Andretti vs Mansell

You may also like