Gurney & Revson - the other US heroes 18 Jun 2005
When Scott Speed tested for Red Bull in Montreal last week he was the first American to officially participate in a Formula One race meeting for 12 years - since Michael Andretti's 1993 departure.
Yet it used to be very different. Not only have there been two American world champions - Phil Hill and Mario Andretti - but over the years an amazing 156 Americans have competed in Formula One races - largely as, during the early years of the sport, the Indy 500 was also classified as a championship round.
There have also been some very famous American non-champion drivers, two of the best known being Dan Gurney and Peter Revson.
Dan Gurney was born near New York but moved to the West Coast of California while he was still a boy. His racing career was delayed by service in the Korean War, and he moved into sportscar drives in the late 1950s, including a drive at the Le Mans 24 Hours Race in 1958. His performance was impressive enough to earn him his Grand Prix debut the following year in a works Ferrari 246.
Gurney's pace and fluid, natural style were obvious from the start - he finished second in his second-ever Grand Prix at the fearsome AVUS circuit in Germany - and by his third race he out-qualified fellow American and team mate Phil Hill.
Yet his career at Ferrari didn't last beyond the end of the season - Gurney rebelling against Enzo Ferrari's dictatorial management style. In 1960 he went to drive for BRM - a team that had already adopted the still-new technology of rear-engined construction. It was a gamble that failed - the car was a stinker and Gurney suffered from a disastrous season in which he managed to finish a race just once. He was lucky to get to the end of the year alive after suffering from total brake failure during the Dutch Grand Prix - his resultant high-speed accident causing the death of a spectator.
A move to Porsche followed, with Gurney taking his - and the team's first win in 1962 at the French Grand Prix. He then moved onto the Brabham team with moderate success, before beginning his own Eagle team in 1967 - and latterly driving for McLaren before retiring from the sport in 1970.
Statistically, Gurney's success was modest: his career included four Grand Prix victories and a highest championship finish of fourth place. He tended to suffer from poor mechanical fortune, barely managing to finish half of the races he started. But his influence was also far greater than the bald numbers suggest. Gurney as an innovator as well as a racer - introducing the so-called Gurney flap to the ends of the early Formula One car wings (to help reduce the loss of low pressure air at the edges). He was also the first driver to spray the champagne he was presented with at the end of the race, a tradition he began after taking victory at Le Mans in 1967.
Gurney's career continued to flourish after Formula One with continued success as both a racer and a team boss, with his Eagle organisation enjoying considerable success in the CART series.
Peter Revson's career, by contrast, ended too early and in tragic circumstances. As the heir to the Revlon cosmetics fortune he was wealthy, but his racing success was definitely earned rather than being paid for. He started racing while attending university in Hawaii, being banned from local club events for being too competitive! After just one season of single seaters in America (1962), his burning desire to drive in Formula One racing brought him to Europe.
He didnt quite manage it - although he did compete with some success in both Formula Two and Formula Three, and also in a non-championship Grand Prix car. He returned to America for a season, racing in endurance and Can-Am events, as well as a one-off appearance for Tyrrell in the 1971 US Grand Prix, before bouncing back to Europe in 1972 for his Formula One debut proper - a seat with the McLaren team. His pace was impressive - he set pole position in the Canadian Grand Prix of that year. The following season he took both of his career victories, still driving for McLaren, with wins in Britain and Canada.
The following season Revson moved to the Shadow team - joining the tragic tally of Formula One careers that were cut short by the ultra-dangerous racing of the period. He was killed while testing for the South African Grand Prix when his front suspension collapsed, sending him head-on into a barrier.