The Stolen Steering Wheel

Porsche Dan Gurney, Aintree

On July 21, 1962 the British Grand Prix was held on Mrs. Topham’s Aintree circuit which ran next to sections of the famous steeplechase course, home of the Grand National race. Here is American Dan Gurney sitting in the pits in his Porsche 804 during practice. The steering wheel on these Porsches was removable so as to allow the driver easy access and exit, especially important for a tall man like Gurney. Of course, this feature was also an opportunity for a joke. Jim Clark had snuck over and “stolen” Gurney’s steering wheel. It looked for a moment that Gurney might not be able to go out for practice, but Clark returned the wheel, eventually, having had a good laugh.

The Porsche 804 was Porsche’s first attempt at a modern F1 car with a flat air cooled 1.5 liter 8 cylinder motor and all independent suspension. Although the 804 was low and quite light, its motor did not produce the power that was realized by the Climax and BRM V8s.

Jim Clark had the new monocoque Lotus 25 and was simply untouchable at Aintree. The Lotus 25 was always the quickest car in 1962, when it lasted. Gurney had celebrated Porsche’s first Grand Prix win at Rouen two weeks before and had followed it up with a one-two victory with his teammate Jo Bonnier at the non-championship race at Solitude. Both wins it must be said were somewhat gifted when his main competitor, wheel-thief Jim Clark, retired. At Aintree, Gurney ran third in the opening laps behind Clark and the Lola of John Surtees but a slipping clutch caused him to fall back, finally finishing ninth.

Photo by Robert Daley ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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One comment

  1. Both Gurney and Bonnier so disappointed in the
    new 8 cylinder Porsche GP car, Expect they had
    felt their patience with 4 cyl car of 1961 would pay
    off handsomely. I remember von Trips trying to
    decide to stay with Ferrari or re-join Porsche for ’61

    Porsche did not learn that Grand Prix racing much
    tougher arena then sports cars as their new car in
    the 1980s would be without victory also..

    Gurney i believe did not pass anybody in that
    French GP and his win not repeated in Title chase
    He would sign on with new Brabham team, and each
    year when resigning, the British would cheer him on
    for doing so.!

    Jim Sitz


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