1971 Gurney Eagle
The 1971 Indy Eagle was an evolution of the 1970 car, following a successful development program through 1970 and early 1971. Bobby Unser's 1971 Eagle was the closest challenger to the McLaren M16s during 1971.
All American Racers started the 1971 season with the pair of 1970 Eagles that had been successfully developed towards the end of the previous season. They raced the cars with long ramps on either side of the cockpit, together with more subtle aerodynamic devices such as small wings behind the front wheels. Using leftover unused components from the 1970 cars, AAR built two new cars for the 1971 Indy 500, to be driven by new team leader Bobby Unser and by top NASCAR driver Lee Roy Yarbrough. The wings behind the front wheels were retained from the 1970 car, but the ungainly ramps were replaced with a larger full-width wing mounted on top of the engine, satisfying USAC's rule that any aerodynamic devices had to be part of the bodywork. McLaren's new M16 had been designed with a full-width rear wing and other teams gradually moved towards the McLaren model, but only the new Eagle came close to the times set by the McLarens at Indianapolis. Yarbrough crashed his car during the first week of practice, and was too dazed to operate the extinguisher. He was pulled clear with only minor burns, but the car was described by Gurney as "a washout", adding "there is no percentage in repairing it". Yarbrough would try the 1970 backup car but decided not to attempt to qualify, handing it over to Jim Malloy.
Unser qualified third in the other 1971 Eagle, behind the McLarens of Peter Revson and Mark Donohue, and after Donohue's leading McLaren broke, Bobby battled with the Parnelli/Bignotti Colts of brother Al Unser and Joe Leonard for the lead. He led twice, and was running third when he spun to avoid Mike Mosley's Eagle which had lost a wheel and hit the wall. Damage was sufficient that it could not be repaired in time for Milwaukee, so Unser took over the 1970 backup car for that race, the one in which Malloy had finished fourth at the Speedway. Unser took pole position at the Milwaukee Mile but retired with engine trouble. The 1971 car returned for the next race, the Pocono 500 four weeks later, and now had a full-size rear wing, in the McLaren style, and had acquired half-width canard wings on the nose. Unser was the only driver who could get close to Donohue's McLaren in qualifying, but couldn't stay with him in the race, finishing ninth. At Michigan's 2-mile track on July 16th, the Eagle now had the same full-width front wings as the McLaren, and Unser took the car round in a world record speed of 193.444 mph to seize pole position from Donohue, with nobody else within 7 mph of the Eagle. Again Unser led, and again an engine failure put him out.
This car is on loan from Gary Schroeder