Thursday, February 22, 2018

How I Remember Dan Gurney...

Dan Gurney's #36 AAR Eagle on display at the IMS Hall of Fame museum in 2015. (The Tomaso Collection)
As everyone's already heard the news, not to mention the countless accolades having already been bestowed upon him...

As we All know, Daniel Sexton Gurney took the Chequered flag on Sunday, January 14th at age 86, as apparently he'd been suffering healthwise lately, as I tend to recall Somme-thun' about Dan not being able to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of Ford's GT 40 Mark IV victory abroad in France last year, and FoMoCo' held its party at Long Beach instead...

While 'Ol SuperMario', nee Mario Andretti was truly gracious in his platitudes towards Gurney, who he not only had the pleasure of racing at Indianapolis, but also when making his Formula 1 debut at Watkins Glen...

Now I won't bore Yuhs with Gurney's astounding depth 'O racing talent, since it's already been done countless times. While it's also been splashed about these No Fenders pages over the years. Other than how many people do you know who have a mechanical racing piece 'O Kit named after them? A la the Gurney Flap.

Or why did my memory recall that he was the first driver to wear a Full face Helmet in competition? Which he did so at the 1968 German Grand Prix at the famed Nurburgring. Along with having also worn it at Indianapolis earlier that year, albeit apparently his team-mate, the late Swede Savage was actually the first to wear one in Open Wheel Racing.

Whilst I've already regaled Yuhs earlier, about my Karmically being in "The Raisin State," aka California when Dan departed the grid. Along with mentioning my sole encounter with this legendary man at Pacific Raceways, circa 2001-02.

As Dan Gurney was truly one of my Heroes, originally due to his being part of 'Ol Shel's "Rat Pack" of American "String-back glove" drivers who Kicked Arse in Carroll Shelby's legendary Cobras! Most notably some Dude known as Il Commendatore, nee Enzo Ferrari's!

As Gurney was triumphant first in those iconic Cobra's, naturally winning its first victory in 1963. Along with finishing fourth overall, and first in class aboard those legendary Cobra Daytona Coupes at Circuit de la Sarthe - before transitioning to the Ford GT 40. Racing both the NASTY Mk II before winning Le Mans in the Mk IV with co-driver SuperTex', nee Anthony Joseph Foyt, Jr.

Yet I'll never forget how polite, un-hurried and captivating he was when I had the good fortune to get his John Hancock at Pacific Raceways, when he was that year's Honoured Guest at our yearly SOVREN Fourth 'O July Hystericals, nee Pacific Northwest Historics.

As my past WASAAC Pal Stookie' and I traversed the entire Pits hoping to find the amiable Gurney, which we did, and he graciously chatted us up for at least 15mins, if not longer? Before I sheepishly asked for his autograph, which he readily granted before we said our goodbyes.

Since even though we had the man all to ourselves on the opening day of the week's festivities in the paddock, I still felt conscious of taking too much of his valuable time...

As I got his autograph first, and then the last time I think I've been to Pacific Raceways in '03, I stood in line to have 'Ol Rufus Parnelli Jones add his to the Trans Am magazine with Gurney's, to which I recall two guys behind me being very impressed!

While another memory revolving round Gurney, when I could see and still read ravenously, was the picture of him holding his hand up to protect himself from stones in the Mercury Cougar Trans Am racing car at what also then was Pacific Raceways, where competitors stones had cracked his front windshield!

As Gurney, Parnelli, "The Silver Fox" (David Pearson) and "Revvie" )Peter Revson) made up the driving roster contesting the '67 season for Bud Moore Racing's factory Lincoln Mercury Cougar TA squad.

And although I never got to see his legendary AAR Eagles race in anger, other than the few on display at the Indianapolis Museum, I did witness his all conquering Four-banger toy-Yoters thoroughly decimate the IMSA GTP field at Portland International Raceway.

Not to mention having seen one of his BAD ARSE Trans Am cars, the No. 77 Sam Posey AAR Barracuda run in anger by Kenny Epsman in several SOVREN Historics events at both Portland and Kent, WA.

And although  I never saw it "live," I know that some brash racing driver named willy T (Ribbs) was renowned for jubilantly dancin' atop one of Dan's Toyota Celica's after winning races for Gurney's team...

I also picked up a fine print edition of said beak-nosed racecar at Portland during one of my multiple treks to the past Norm Thompson Hystericals; being one of eight made featuring my Numero Uno Eagle, the titanium Formula 1 chassis that Dan won Spa in, which has adorned thou walls 'O Tomaso Manor for over two-plus decades.

And then later acquiring a fairly limited edition autographed 1/18 Carousel diecast of the very same car, being one of the few I actually have on display.

While fortunately on my last trek to Mother Speedway, I got to see this car once again in the flesh back in 2015 when various Gurney Eagle's adorned the Hall of Fame museum at Mother Speedway.

Gurney Star Attraction during latest visit to IMS Hall of Fame museum

As for Mwah, I don't think I can sum it up any better than Mario did, as Dan Gurney did truly epitomize class! As the tall, lanky Californian was the consummate Gentleman with Mwah all those years ago, and whenever I've seen him on the Telie' or in print media, he's always been exceedingly Humble!

Hmm? Just thought of it. Gurney's only one of five American Formula 1 Drivers I've ever had the privilege of meeting, along with both American F1 World Champions, the '85 Spin 'N Win Cat and the New "Joe Cool," aka Alexander Rossi, which is some pretty esteemed company.

Especially since I dearly love the quote 'bout the late, great Jimmy Clark only ever being scared of one competitor, the aforementioned Daniel Sexton gurney.

While I suppose since I was just in California, and thinking of Driving songs, naturally The Doors L.A. Woman sprang to mind...

(F1 Gurney Eagle photo C/o No Fenders ‘Offical Photographer CARPETS')