Recounting an amazing Ford GT drive with Dan Gurney
With the unfortunate passing of pioneering race driver and engineer Dan Gurney, you will have many retellings of his fantastic accomplishments, such as winning the Belgian Grand Prix as part of his own freaking car and winning the 1 day of Le Mans.
But nobody else offers the story throughout the day Dan Gurney did not die, and this happened because I didn’t kill him. In 2004, Gurney was, along with Jackie Stewart, one of many racing luminaries Ford influenced to the media launch program for that ’04 Ford GT. It had been during Monterey Car Week, and then there was really a dinner in Carmel with Jay Leno along with retired GT40 racers like Lloyd Ruby.
Following Sunday’s historic races at Laguna Seca, Ford had the track reserved for journalists drive an automobile the latest GT as fast as possible on Monday. It turned out my new at Laguna Seca, so i knew from watching which the track was fast and failed to suffer fools gladly. Following a first morning van ride to know approximately which way the pavement went, there we were dropped while in the pit lane, where a few brand-new GTs were idling available.
Normally, frequently . in which the fistfight breaks out among journalists to gain access to the cars first. However, this would be a cool, overcast Northern California morning, along with the track was cold, damp and slick. Everyone chosen over lose time waiting for better conditions before testing the brand new Ford supercar.
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Finally, from a minor standoff, with the cars just sitting there, idling, I snatched head gear over pit wall and strode toward your car. Because was opening the driver’s door, one among Ford’s minders shouted at me: “You’ll need to have a driver to accompany you.” That’s right, they wanted babysitters to ride shotgun to hold the cars in one piece. There were a group of people talking inside of a circle near the car I’d chosen, and i also saw that Dan Gurney was among them. “Sure,” I said, “No hassle. Unless Dan wishes to choose me instead,” I joked, gesturing toward Gurney.
I should include that I’d never met Gurney before around my life just before this second, though I’d interviewed him on the telephone some times to talk about the likes of his Alligator motorcycle.
“What?” Gurney’s head increased. “Sure, I’ll go!”
Umm. This hadn’t been my plan. I became likely to drive a costly, fast, powerful rare car at speed over a tricky track that were slippery; I didn’t be aware of the line around it yet. Using a racing icon ride shotgun whenever i tried to not ever embarrass myself any further than necessary weren’t element of my expectation. Gurney circled the car and opened the passenger door to input. “Dan!” the minder shouted again. “You need a helmet!”
Gurney looked across at me, already wearing the helmet I’d grabbed from Ford’s supply. “Nah,” he replied. “We’re not planning to go that fast.”
“Well we’re not now,” I think, because the then-73-year-old racing titan slid helmetless in the GT’s passenger seat. “I’m not really from the paper in the am as the person that killed Dan Gurney by crashing this car!”
So I motored out your pit exit onto the main straight and began my first-ever lap of Laguna Seca, planning to find the right line and feeling from the available grip. We circulated for four or five laps, Gurney periodically making approving noises in the manner on the little league parent shouting from your bleachers.
The movie “The Princess Bride” visited mind. “Among the finest that you feel you are carrying out well,” said Andre the Giant’s character. “I despise for people to die embarrassed.”
Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 1Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 2Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 3Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 4Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 5Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 6Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 7Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 8Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 9Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 11Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 12Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 13Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 14Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 15Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 16Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019 Photo 17
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Gallery Dan Gurney 1931 – 2019
Gurney completed his performance by refraining from the audible sighs of relief as I going to the pit entrance. The Ford PR staff, however, got sweating, quick grown timbers . morning chill, when we rolled to your stop. Gurney complimented my driving, and then we shook hands since we parted. “Hah,” I thought, “there’s your headline: ‘Dan Gurney NOT killed by Laguna Seca novice in fast car.’”
I headed off for my technical briefing, and Gurney eventually required the career he was there to undertake: giving guests rides across the track at real speed within the GT.
This program was one where Ford had invited journalists’ significant others to experience a visit to The Inn at Spanish Bay, and my wife, Lynn, had arrive for any weekend. However, as our babysitting back home was finite, there we were flying beyond Monterey that very afternoon, thus she’d come to the track that morning so that we could depart directly to manchester airport whenever i was finished.
That left her lounging around bored, awaiting me to find out all the mysteries from the amazing GT along with its supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine. Gurney, having given rides to all or any the intended guests, seemed to be sitting bored within his car, without having any more rides to offer. He spotted Lynn and asked if she wanted a ride, so with no other takers there exists nothing that else to undertake, my wife jumped into the GT for the ride around Laguna Seca with Dan Gurney.
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This is a point where it has to be mentioned the racetrack exists delicately among its California neighbors. To hold those neighbors happy, you will find strict sound limits for the track on non-race days.
The GTs brought for any program were regular street cars, but there was clearly some concern which the GT’s muscular exhaust note may be tripped up by the trackside sound sensor. To be a precaution, Ford engineers had attached sheetmetal deflectors to the GT’s exhaust tips with hose clamps, funneling the car’s sound outside the side the spot that the microphone sat.
And your plan had worked right through the day, without having any sound violations, apart from Jay Leno’s laps driving an original GT40 with Jackie Stewart within the wheel. They did several flagrantly loud laps, with Leno reportedly since price of the resulting fines.
But the ultra-modern cars did not have any problems with the sound limit. Except for one. When Gurney passed the microphone with Lynn within the passenger’s seat, he lifted over gas and coasted briefly. He or she to remain seated from the gas for any second with the sound sensor, Gurney informed her, because he’d been warned that he was within the sound limit.
Of all the cars and all the drivers to the track tomorrow, man or woman going so fast it has been getting flagged for making a lot noise was your vehicle driven from the 73-year-old legend. Which served as a reminder why he was really a legend.
Godspeed, Dan Gurney. You were right. You didn’t have to have a helmet.