Formula One driver who began champagne-spraying tradition dies, aged 86

Former American Formula One driver Dan Gurney has died following complications with pneumonia.

Gurney, who won four grands prix and began the tradition of celebrating a victory by spraying champagne, passed away on Sunday, aged 86.

Gurney was regarded as one of the finest drivers of his era and raced for Ferrari, Porsche and Brabham during an F1 career which spanned more than a decade. The American also won the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1967.

"With one last smile on his handsome face, Dan drove off into the unknown just before noon today," the Gurney family said in a statement.

"In deepest sorrow, with gratitude in our hearts for the love and joy you have given us during your time on this earth, we say ’Godspeed’."

Mario Andretti, the 1978 Formula One world champion, led the tributes to Gurney.

He tweeted: "RIP Dan Gurney. I was first inspired by him when I was in midgets dreaming of being like him. I was last inspired by him yesterday. Yes, I mean forever.

"He understood me better than anyone else, which is why he wrote the foreword for my book in 2001 #DanGurneyHasFinishedTheRace."

McLaren, one of Gurney’s former teams, also tweeted: "We are very saddened to hear that US racing pioneer and former McLaren driver, Dan Gurney has passed away. Our thoughts with his family and friends."

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