CHOOSING FIVE FROM 56
The best single performance by an
American driver in a Formula 1 World
Championship grand prix? Again, so
many to choose from: Phil Hill’s earliest
outings with Ferrari that were designed
to impress Enzo, who believed him a
sports car specialist; Richie Ginther
casting off of his “number two” shackle
to score his only and Honda’s and
Goodyear’s maiden win; Mario Andretti’s
pole on debut with Lotus and on return
with Ferrari, and so many occasions in
between; or Peter Revson’s stylish
Silverstone success. The list goes on.
But it’s got to be Dan Gurney, the only
American to win a GP in an American car.
Had he not left Brabham after 1965,
chances are he’d have been a two-time
world champ. Instead he set out to prove
that the USA could build an F1 car, as well
as moon rockets. Although, like NASA, he
wasn’t averse to importing expertise.
His relationship with British engine
builder Weslake was not all he’d hoped
for, but its V12’s immediate 400hp-plus
at least made him a contender for victory
GURNEY AND THE AMERICAN DREAM RESULT
throughout the majority of 1967. That
it came right only the once, at daunting
Spa-Francorchamps, was testimony to the
severity of the challenge he’d undertaken.
Outpaced by Jim Clark’s Lotus 49,
with its newly-minted Cosworth DFV
– the birth of packaging in F1 – during
qualifying and the first dozen laps,
Gurney moved up when the Scot fell from
contention because of spark plug issues.
Once his own fluctuating fuel pressure
had stabilized, he set the race’s fastest
lap to catch and pass Jackie Stewart’s
BRM for the lead and the victory.
His winning average set a new all-time
mark, surpassing that of the 1959
German GP at Berlin’s Avus, with its bullet
straights and “Wall of Death” banking.
Thinking about it, that Avus race was
Gurney’s second GP and he’d finished
second for Ferrari. And Masten Gregory
of Kansas – the most fearless man Jack
Brabham ever met – had briefly starred
with a tigerish performance in a Cooper…
But no, it still has to be Dan at Spa.
Yep, that was when the Eagle landed.
Dan’s victory at Spa in 1967 gets our vote for the best single performance by an American in Formula 1.
Dan Gurney qualified
second for the ’ 67
Belgian GP at Spa, but
bogged at the start
(MAIN). His fightback
stymied by a fuel
pressure issue, but he
battled back again to
pass Jackie Stewart’s
BRM for a famous win.
Richie’s ’ 65 Mexican win – heading home
that man Gurney – was his only F1 victory.
GINTHER’S DAY IN THE SUN
Avus ’ 59 featured several memorable U.S.
performances, including Gurney (ABOVE).