It was with some sadness I read this week that one of the true racers has gone to the great race track in the sky. American Dan Gurney died aged 86 and in his prime was a race car driver most feared by his contemporaries.
It was not only his racing that caught the eye, but also his innovations. Gurney was the first driver to wear a full face helmet while racing and he was the first to fit a raised metal edge at the rear of his car increasing downforce. It became known as the Gurney flap and started the rear wing spoiler revolution.
His biggest contribution however, was to do with the post race celebration. After winning the 1967 Le Mans 24 Hour race with AJ Foyt, Gurney took the champagne bottle, shook it and then sprayed the spectators with the foam. This little episode now happens in all forms of motorsport and many other past times.
Gurney also raced in a number of categories during any given season as did a number of other great drivers from that era. It's unlikely you'll see Lewis Hamilton, or any of his ilk, jumping from an F1 car into a Nascar or such like. Sure, you see a number of single seater drivers having the odd punt in a sportscar or an LMP1 car, but not on a regular basis.
It's a shame really, as the true mark of a gifted racer is surely that they are able to jump behind the wheel of anything with an engine and go fast. I know that some will argue that race cars these days are so highly complex that no one could get the most out of them to win races, but if you're good enough you should also be fast enough.
In fact, fans of speedway did get a chance to see two of the very few people left who can jump categories and still go fast. The legendary American Tony Stewart, a former Nascar and Indycar race winner was in New Zealand racing midgets. He's probably the only driver in the last 20 years who won national championships in two completely different types of cars. Current Nascar star Kyle Larson dominated the International Midget Series recently as well.
Maybe the answer to getting more drivers to race different 'codes' is to de-complicate the cars so it's about talent and not engineering. No doubt there will be other roadblocks such as team owners, manufacturers, sponsors and not wanting their driver to risk life and limb in different categories, and there would be the inevitable race date clashes. I'm not suggesting that drivers would have to do the entire series, rather race when there weren't clashes.
However, I bet if you asked any driver worth his salt they'd leap at the chance to race each and every weekend all year long. In many an interview with Shane van Gisbergen he was always at pains to say he would, without a shadow of a doubt, race anything every weekend if he could.
Now there's a thought, wouldn't it be fantastic if the FIA had a championship akin to the decathlon in athletics where drivers would race in 10 different categories gaining points for each discipline. Lets see, you could have GP2, GT Cup cars, speedway, rallying, saloon cars, production cars, Formula E, touring cars, karting and off road.Formula 1 star Brendon Hartley spends honeymoon in Rotorua