A Great Racer, And A Greatman
Autosport|January 18,2018

Dan Gurney – driver, team boss, race-car builder – was without equal, and his death is a huge loss for motorsport.

ONE WAY AND ANOTHER, JIMCLARKHAS BEEN MUCH in my mind of late, not least, I suppose, because this year we come to the 50th anniversary of his death. In April 1968 Clark’s fellow drivers made the sorrowful journey to Chirnside for his funeral, and it was later that day that his father talked to Dan Gurney.

“You know, Dan,” he said, “you were the only one Jim ever worried about…” Perhaps those few words put Gurney’s status as a racing driver more clearly into perspective than anything else ever said or written about him, and Dan, who had revered Jimmy, almost broke down.

Now, half a century on, it is the death of Gurney that has me, and countless others, reeling. Given that he had long been in failing health, we may not have been surprised by the news, but still we were shocked by it: the loss of Dan Gurney is immeasurable in our sport. If I have known many great drivers, I have known rather fewer great men: Daniel Sexton makes both lists.

Gurney came late to racing, being already 24 when he began with a Triumph TR2 in 1955, but thereafter his rise was extraordinary. By ’57 he was racing Ferraris for wealthy sportsmen, and back in the day that was how an American got Enzo’s attention, as Phil Hill and Richie Ginther could also attest. It rather beggars belief that when Dan went to the grid in a factory Ferrari at Reims for the ’59 French Grand Prix, he was starting only his 23rd motor race.

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