Born in Port Jefferson, Long Island in 1931, Daniel Sexton Gurney, the son of John Gurney a star of the Metropolitan Opera was one of the first American drivers to make his way to Europe where he immediately impressed with his fast, smooth driving style.
After a works career with Ferrari, BRM, and Porsche (for whom he scored their only World Championship Grand Prix), Gurney returned to America in 1962 and drove his first Indianapolis 500 in one of Mickey Thompsons Harvey Aluminum Specials. Sadly, the gearbox broke but Gurney was also driving for wealthy patrons in sports cars and won the 1963 Riverside 500 stock car race. Dan Gurney also drove a Brabham to score that marques first win in the 1964 French Grand Prix.
That same year, Gurney and Carroll Shelby formed a partnership, "All-American Racers", aimed at winning the Indy 500. Gurney took over the team in 1966 and started a parallel operation in Rye, England, "Anglo-American Racers", which built his "Eagle" Formula 1 car. The V12 Weslake-powered Eagle was a beautifully Grand Prix car and one of the best built of the period. At Spa in 1967, Gurney won the Belgian Grand Prix. During that year also, he won the Le Mans 24 Hours in a Ford Mark 4 shared with A.J. Foyt. After returning briefly to F1 in 1970 to drive the first few events in a McLaren, Gurney then concentrated on managing his team in various Can-Am, Trans-Am and Indianapolis events until the early 1980s.
In 1981, Dan Gurney was appointed by Toyota as their spokesman to promote the new Supra road car. He used this appointment to lead AAR into IMSA. In the next six years (until 1988), AAR raced GTU and GTO semi-tube frame silhouette Toyota Celicas. In 1989, with Les Ungar, Toyotas US Motorsport Supremo supporting, the decision was made to move into the GTP category with an Eagle Toyota HF89 chassis.
The HF89 was a honeycomb aluminum chassis using side-mounted radiators (to give a chisel-shaped nose), conventional twin-wishbone outboard suspension, and bodywork made of a carbon / Kevlar / Nomex sandwich. Ron Hopkins and Hiro Fujimori designed the GTP car. It was built to make use of the 2.1-liter, 4-cylinder 3S-GTM single-turbo power unit that the factory had developed for their Group C car. This engine was joined to a Hewland VGC gearbox. The new Toyota Eagle, with the small engine, was able to run right down to the minimum weight for the GTP category in the IMSA sliding-scale, 170 lbs. lighter than the V6 Electramotive Nissans and the V12 Jaguars. The 3S-GTM engine had to operate with a 54mm turbo restrictor plate and this, combined with Toyotas high claims for output, meant the straight-4 was from the onset on the wrong side of the power-to-weight equation, compared with the opposition.
At the start of 1989, the Eagle was not quite ready. So, in the first year, the decision was taken to launch a two-prong attack on GTP using the HF89 and an ex-TOMs Group C Toyota 88C. The only modifications were to fit a 120-liter fuel tank, and replace the 19-inch rears with 17-inch diameter wheels. Driven by Drake Olsen, Willy T. Ribbs, Rocky Moran, Chris Cord and Juan-Manuel Fangio II, the 88C did well and took second place at San Antonio and thirds at West Palm Beach and Watkins Glen. The HF89 was 5th at Mid-Ohio and 4th at Del Mar.
The 88C chassis was put aside in 1990, discarded after an accident. The HF89 was now going well, thanks to some good chassis development work. By June, AAR had their GTP car so well sorted that they emerged as the main threat to Electramotives previously dominant Nissan. Drake Olson took three poles and two fastest laps during 1990 but it was teammate Fangio who drove the HF89 to each of the four victories that the team claimed during the season. They won the first at Topeka in May and followed up at Sears Point, San Antonio and Del Mar.