Happy Birthday Dan Gurney

On Saturday, the racing world pays tribute to Dan Gurney, who would have celebrated his 93rd birthday.


The transported Californian raced – and won – at racing’s highest levels, winning in Formula 1, INDYCAR, NASCAR and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He passed away on Jan. 14, 2018.


Gurney only raced once at Lime Rock Park, but the American racing legend made an indelible mark on the circuit’s record book.


Gurney raced here in 1970, at the peak of the SCCA Trans-Am Series’ glory days. He had missed the previous three years due to racing in the Indianapolis 500. For 1970, Lime Rock moved its Trans-Am to May 9, opening the door for factory teams from all of America’s “Big Four” manufacturers – Ford (Mustang), Chevrolet (Camaro), Chrysler (Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda) and American Motors (with Roger Penske’s new Javelin). That also meant an all-star lineup, including Mark Donohue, Sam Posey, Parnelli Jones and Gurney.


Gurney qualified second in his All American Racers Plymouth Barracuda, sharing the front row with Donohue. It turned out to be a short day for Gurney, however. He took ill from engine fumes and retired from the race near the midway point.


It was Gurney the car owner who etched his name in the record book. After his days in Trans-Am, Gurney began designing and building Eagles that soared in INDYCAR, Formula 5000, Can-Am and even Formula 1. He turned his attention to IMSA, working his way from campaigning Toyota Celicas in Camel GTU and GTO to the lead GTP division.


The competition was brutal at the pinnacle of GTP, with the AAR Eagles holding their own against factory efforts by Nissan, Jaguar, Corvette, Mazda and a slew of Porsche 962s. In 1992, Davy Jones set LRP’s record with a lap of 43.985-seconds in a Jaguar, but Gurney’s All American Racers took the victory with Juan Fangio II driving a Toyota Eagle MKIII.


The landscape changed dramatically in 1993. Rising costs drove all but one of the factories away, leaving Gurney’s potent Eagles to contend with a handful of privateers. Only pride was on the line – and that was enough to drive Gurney in his quest for perfection. His Eagles won every race they entered that season. At Lime Rock, P.J. Jones turned a lap of 43.112-seconds – 128.595 mph – to set a circuit standard (including the chicane) that stands unchallenged to this day in the No. 98 Toyota Eagle. Teammate Fangio then dominated the event for his second-consecutive triumph at LRP in Eagle No. 99.


The history of Trans Am lives on at Lime Rock Park as American horsepower returns to the iconic circuit for the Trans Am Memorial Day Classic May 24-27. For tickets and event information, visit: https://limerock.com/events/memorial-day-classic/