Dan Gurney: 1931-2018

15th January 2018
Rob Widdows

Daniel Sexton Gurney, or ' Dan the Man' as he was known to his legion of fans across the world, was one of only a handful of Americans to conquer the circuits of Europe, including Goodwood.


He started out with hot rods at Riverside and Bonneville, graduating to circuit racing. By 1959 his natural talent had taken him to Grand Prix racing, first with Ferrari, and later for BRM, Porsche, Lotus, McLaren and Brabham. It had taken him only 30 races to reach the pinnacle of the sport. 

Such was the popularity of this erudite and charming man that in the mid-‘60s Car & Driver magazine was distributing ‘Gurney for President’ bumper stickers and badges, urging his fans to get their hero into the White House. At Goodwood in 2012 the campaign was revived with “Gurney for President” placards, badges and stickers handed out to fans who flocked to pay tribute to their hero.

In 1967 Gurney and his co-driver AJ Foyt won Le Mans for Ford, the first all-American victory. On the podium Dan spontaneously sprayed the crowd with champagne, triggering a tradition. A week later he won the Belgian Grand Prix in the Eagle, the only American ever to win a Grand Prix in a car built and raced by his own team. His main rival that day was Jim Clark whose Father later confided that Dan was the only man his son feared on the track.

Dan was a giant of our sport: His achievements a unique chapter in the history of motor racing.


He first raced at Goodwood in 1959, driving a works Ferrari in the TT. In 1960 he was with BRM for the Glover Trophy and was back in 1961 for the Lavant Cup, this time in a Lotus 18. In 1964 he was with Shelby American for the TT, bringing his Cobra home third. In 1965, now with Brabham, he crashed out of the International Trophy.

So, when he heard that Lord March was bringing motorsport back to Goodwood he needed no persuasion to join in. He was a regular visitor to the Revival, and in 2012 there was a celebration of Gurney's career, bringing together the diverse range of cars he had raced both in America and Europe. Dan was back in the Ferrari 250 TR while Jackie Stewart drove a Porsche 804, the car in which Gurney won the French Grand Prix in 1962. His F1 Eagle, his All American Racers Indycar, a CanAm McLaren, Ford GT40, Ford Galaxie, and a Shelby Cobra were just some of the cars that came to pay tribute to the man who raced them.

Of Dan, his legacy and his passing, the Duke of Richmond had this to say: "Dan was not only one of the truly great men of motor racing but also a dear friend and one of my childhood heroes. It was a privilege for me to get to know Dan during his many visits to the Festival of Speed and the Revival and we, along with all who knew him, will miss him. Dan was a giant of our sport: His achievements a unique chapter in the history of motor racing. All of us at Goodwood send Evi and the family our heartfelt support and sympathy."

Photography courtesy of LAT Images

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