Dan Gurney’s Greatest Victory

Dan Gurney, Eagle-Gurney/Weslake, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgian Grand Prix

Arms crossed over for the hard right La Source hairpin on Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps, Dan Gurney takes his Eagle-Gurney/Weslake Mk. 1 F1 car to an outstanding victory in the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps was still at its intimidating height, a 14.1 km super-fast open road circuit with virtually no run-off and surrounded by trees, walls, ditches and houses. It claimed many lives down the years.

The Eagle was Dan Gurney’s idea for an American F1 car, even if it would use a British motor. The first Eagle was laid out by former Lotus  designer Len Terry who passed away at the age of 90 a few days ago. Terry had designed several Lotus racing cars in prior years, including Championship cars for Jim Clark in both F1 and at Indianapolis. The engine in this Eagle was designed by Weslake Engineering at Gurney’s behest and was a lovely V12 three liter unit producing just over 400 horsepower, although perhaps a bit heavy.

The car that Gurney drove at Spa-Francorchamps had a titanium frame and magnesium bodywork which made it light in weight but a potential fire bomb in the event of a crash. Gurney is said to have referred to it as “driving a Ronson cigarette lighter.” This is all the more important when one considers Gurney’s new lap record, set late in the race when his car became lighter as fuel was burned off, of almost 149 mph. Gurney had qualified on the front row, but a full three seconds slower than Clark’s Lotus 49. Clark and then Jackie Stewart led the race until both had mechanical ills which allowed Gurney to sweep through to win at an average speed of over 145 mph. Spa-Francorchamps was not for the faint of heart.

Photo by Nigel Snowdon ©The Klemantaski Collection



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