Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Dan Gurney

You might have read my post following the death of John Surtees last year. We’re not even a month into 2018 and the death of Dan Gurney has now been announced. Both men were great drivers in their time, turning their hand successfully to sports cars, formula one as well as team ownership and all that such endeavours entails.

What is especially poignant is that ‘their time’ coincided with my formative years. I’ve written before of my first-hand experience at Brands Hatch in 1967, when both Surtees and Gurney were on the front row for the first race I ever saw. And although any death comes as a shock, it is somehow reassuring to know that both men essentially died of old age.

Not only did both survive the perilous era of my schooldays, but both went on to other things in the sport – the competitive flame burned brightly for many, many years to come. It was through Gurney’s AAR Toyotas that I eventually met the man, but somehow the words “you won the first race I ever saw” got stuck in my throat somewhere – his focus was on the upcoming IMSA race, not on history.

When I visited the Motor Sport Hall of Fame awards in 2016, Dan appeared on a video link and gave a humble but moving acceptance speech. He was undoubtedly frail, but if I am able to conduct myself thus at the age of 84, I’ll be quite happy.

Many eulogies have been written in other places about Dan; by people who knew him better than I, and who are better able to convey in words his impact, influence and legacy on motor racing. To me he was simply the guy in no. 5 who won that first race, on a grey, chilly day when I was 10 years old.

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