Dan Gurney Makes History In American-Made Formula 1 Car

0
92
AMERICAN MADE: Dan Gurney drives his Eagle Mk1 Formula One car to victory at the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix. (NSSN Archives Photo)

AMERICAN MADE: Dan Gurney drives his Eagle Mk1 Formula One car to victory at the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix. (NSSN Archives Photo)

When Dan Gurney won the Belgian Grand Prix on June 18, 1967, he became the first driver to wheel an American-built car to victory in a modern Formula One race.

Gurney’s milestone triumph came behind the wheel of an Eagle Mk1 chassis powered by a Weslake V-12 engine. Anglo American Racers, a joint venture between Gurney’s All American Racers and British engine manufacturer Weslake Engineering, was the official entrant of the single-seat racer.

Gurney, who started second behind pole winner Jim Clark, completed the 28 laps around the 8.74-mile Spa circuit in a record 1 hour, 40 minutes and 49.4 seconds at an average speed of 148.848 mph.

Clark led the first 11 laps before he pulled into the pits where his crew replaced two spark plugs in the engine.

With Clark pitting, Gurney seemed poised to battle Jackie Stewart for the lead. Instead, Gurney screeched to a halt in his pit, yelled “fuel pressure” and sped away. So instead of leading, Gurney was 10 seconds behind Stewart when he returned to the circuit.

For four laps, Gurney lost ground until he was 13 seconds back. He then started closing on Stewart — two seconds at a time, then three, then four.

As the cars roared past the stands to finish the 21st lap, Gurney drove by Stewart. There were cheers from many of the 60,000 spectators, including a group of American servicemen who followed Gurney around the European Grand Prix circuit.

Gurney pulled away after that, but there was tension in his pit as the car had been plagued by mechanical problems and failed to finish the season’s first three races. However, the Eagle continued to soar and Gurney beat Stewart’s BRM to the checkered flag by 63 seconds.

Chris Amon finished third in a Ferrari with Jochen Rindt fourth in a Cooper-Maserati and Mike Spence fifth in a BRM.

After celebrating in victory lane, Gurney addressed the fuel-pressure issue.

“The pressure went low. It was starving down the straights,” he said. “I didn’t expect the car to last. I couldn’t believe the problem would straighten out.”

Anglo American Racers continued to battle mechanical problems with the Eagle and eventually switched to a McLaren M7A chassis before closing its doors at the end of the 1968 season.

The significance of Gurney’s victory in the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix has grown over time, as 43 years later the Len Terry-designed Eagle Mk1 is still the only American-built car to have won a modern World Championship race.