George A. Bignotti

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George A. Bignotti

Birthdate: (95)
Birthplace: San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
Death: September 27, 2013 (95)
Las Vegas, Clark, Nevada, USA
Place of Burial: Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Joseph Bignotti and Mary Bignotti
Husband of Kay Bignotti
Father of <private> Mendez (Bignotti)
Brother of Alfred James Bignotti and John Bignotti

Occupation: auto racing mechanic
Managed by: Eldon Clark (C)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About George A. Bignotti

The Los Angeles Times

George Bignotti

Chief mechanic for 7 Indy 500 winners

George Bignotti, 97, who set a record as the chief mechanic for seven winners of the Indianapolis 500, died in his sleep of natural causes Friday in Las Vegas, his daughter Mary Mendez said.

As a mechanic, Bignotti won the Indy 500 with drivers A.J. Foyt in 1961 and 1964, Graham Hill in 1966, Al Unser in 1970 and 1971, Gordon Johncock in 1973 and Tom Sneva in 1983.

Bignotti also holds the record for most wins overall in Indy-car history with more than 80 victories.

"He set a standard for mechanical excellence and preparation at the Indianapolis 500 that has yet to be matched and may never be reached," Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement.

On Twitter, former Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti said, "We lost a true legend of Indy Car. George Bignotti did not need a compiuter [sic] to perform magic. Just ask AJ Foyt or Al Unser."

Born Jan. 12, 1916, in San Francisco, Bignotti got into race-car preparation after high school by following his brothers Al and John into the sport in the Bay Area.

Later, after he had worked on cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the mid-1950s, he realized, "I could build a car as good as anything I'd seen at Indy" and decided to become a chief mechanic, he told Sports Illustrated in 1971.

Along the way, Bignotti deftly handled the transition of Indy-style cars from front-engine roadsters to sleeker, rear-engine cars. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993.


George Bignotti

Chief mechanic for 7 Indy 500 winners

George Bignotti, 97, who set a record as the chief mechanic for seven winners of the Indianapolis 500, died in his sleep of natural causes Friday in Las Vegas, his daughter Mary Mendez said.

As a mechanic, Bignotti won the Indy 500 with drivers A.J. Foyt in 1961 and 1964, Graham Hill in 1966, Al Unser in 1970 and 1971, Gordon Johncock in 1973 and Tom Sneva in 1983.

Bignotti also holds the record for most wins overall in Indy-car history with more than 80 victories.

"He set a standard for mechanical excellence and preparation at the Indianapolis 500 that has yet to be matched and may never be reached," Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement.

Source: Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2013.


Perhaps no individual advanced the role of Indy car mechanic more than George Bignotti, who died Friday at age 97.

Bignotti tuned or engineered seven Indianapolis 500 winners between 1961 and 1983, including triumphs for A.J. Foyt, Graham Hill, Al Unser, Gordon Johncock and Tom Sneva.

"George did a good job and was awful smart the way he ran his race team," said Jim McGee, who ultimately surpassed Bignotti's long-standing record of 85 Indy car race wins as a crew chief. "He ran it more like a business before anybody else did.

"You have to give George credit because he was ahead of his time. He knew how to pick drivers and he knew how to pick owners so that he had the right equipment and driver to win. That was a lesson in itself, watching the way he operated."

Bignotti began working on Indy cars in the mid-1950s and gained fame as Foyt's chief mechanic during Foyt's impressive run at the top of the sport in the early '60s. They teamed to win 32 races, including the 1961 and '64 Indianapolis 500, as well as USAC national championships in 1960, '61, '63 and '64.

But the partnership between two strong personalities dissolved midway through the 1965 season.

"We got pretty disgruntled and at Langhorne, Foyt said he didn't want to run," Bignotti said in 2004. "He had been out late the previous night after winning a Sprint Car race. He ran a few laps and we parked the car and I told him we were done."

Despite the acrimonious split, Foyt remained on good terms with Bignotti and counted him as his toughest rival.

"I'd say he was one of the greatest mechanics that was ever at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," Foyt said. "We had such a close relationship and even though I went on my merry way, we were still close up to his death."

"We did so much racing together and in '64, we were just unbeatable," Foyt added, recalling a year in which he won 10 of 13 races. "We had a lot of arguments up and down but they weren't arguments like people think. We both respected each other a whole lot. I damn sure respected him for what he was doing on the cars and I think he respected my driving ability."

Bignotti moved on to field cars for New Orleans oil magnate John Mecom, winning the 1966 Indianapolis 500 with Hill. Near the end of the decade, he teamed up with driver Unser, and a joint move to Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing netted them back-to-back Indy wins in 1970 and '71.

"George was strong-minded and gave us very reliable cars that were not always the most innovative or flashy but always fast enough to win," Jones recounted. "Reliability back then was different than it is now, and George's cars were always prepared to go the distance -- whether it be 100 or 500 miles -- dirt or pavement."

"He was great to work with and he taught a lot of mechanics the trade," Jones added. "Everyone on the circuit learned by watching him, some as team members and some as rivals."

Bignotti then built Patrick Racing into a powerhouse later in the 1970s before forming his own team in partnership with Dan Cotter in the early '80s. Although his experience dated back to the roadster era, Bignotti was a key figure in adapting the ground effect aerodynamic theories being pioneered in Formula 1 to Indy car racing.

Although he worked with many top-flight drivers during the course of his long career, Bignotti still rated Foyt at the top.

"A.J. was a great driver," he said. "He could drive just about anything, and he wasn't bad to get along with. We never raised our voices at each other in the garage, though in front of the public, he would blow his top. Foyt won 27 races for me and Al Unser won 25, both winning twice at Indianapolis."

"Jackie Stewart was a fantastic driver," he added. "I also enjoyed working with Graham Hill, who was originally a mechanic. They were pretty nice and I learned a lot from them because they were very efficient. If you said 2 o'clock, they were there at 2 o'clock."

Source: ESPN.com


George Bignotti was born in San Francisco in 1918. His older brothers were racing mechanics and young George quickly became skilled with a wrench. The brothers eventually purchased and campaigned a midget car, running locally several times a week. As the youngest, when the regular driver missed a race, George was appointed as the substitute driver. One year, he won fourteen of his eighteen races. However, Bignotti’s racing genius was building and preparing cars, not driving them.

Bignotti eventually hooked up with Frank Kurtis, a car builder ten years his senior working out of Los Angeles. Kurtis’ creations had appeared at IMS for several years. As west coast racers invaded the Indy Speedway, Bignotti enjoyed his first visit to IMS in 1954 as a chassis mechanic and go-fer for Fred Agabashian’s Kurtis-Kraft ride that finished 6th. Two years later, again under Kraft’s supervision, Bignotti participated in the creation of the Kraft roadster, the long cigar-shaped monster, all-front-engine with the driver’s compartment almost sitting over the rear wheels.

Bignotti is best known for his seasons teaming with A.J. Foyt Jr, early in the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion’s career. Foyt got his first champ car ride with the famed Dean Van Lines team, but by 1959, A.J. was the hottest young gun on the circuit, and became increasingly dissatisfied with Clint Brawner’s low budget approach to racing. Bignotti landed Bowes Seal Fast as sponsor for the Bignotti-Bowes team, and soon added Foyt as his driver for the 1960 season. Foyt and Bignotti were fast out of the box, although they finished 25th at Indy when a clutch failed.

In 1961 and 1964, the Bignotti-Bowes team won the Indianapolis 500. In the same period, Foyt claimed three National Championships. These were the golden years of Indy car racing, when Foyt’s competition included Rodger Ward, Eddie Sachs, Len Sutton, Parnelli Jones, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Jim McElreath, Lloyd Ruby, Dick Rathmann, Jim Hurtubise, Jack Brabham, Gordon Johncock, Mario Andretti and Bobby and Al Unser. It seemed every race was contested, up front, with dozens of racers poised for the win… and AJ won most of them.

  

In 1965, it happened again. For the second time in his short and spectacular career, Foyt fired his boss: This time it was Bignotti. Neither man ever spoke much about it, and the Gasoline Alley garages are gone, so they can’t tell the tale. One can only speculate: Once again, there were too many roosters in the chicken coop. Foyt was convinced that he knew everything he needed to know about setting up a roadster, and the present design was uniquely suited to Indianapolis’ four left turns. Bignotti, having experienced a variety of road racing designs in his car building days with Kurtis, was already dabbling with concepts like aerodynamics, suspension, drag and traction. Neither man was disposed to compromise.

In 1966, Bignotti joined John Mecom to enter Lolas for drivers Rodger Ward, Jackie Stewart, and Graham Hill. Biting the bullet, Foyt joined the Sheraton-Thompson team, and piloted a Lotus. At Indy, Foyt retired on the first lap when Billy Foster pushed him into the 1st turn wall, and one-third of the field got mangled. Hill, Bignotti, and Mecom took the trip to victory lane.

During (and after) 1965-1967, Bignotti was studying Grand Prix cars, considering how to apply the high speed cornering principles to Indianapolis racing. Although Bignotti and Mecom had great success at IMS, the international stars had little interest in running the rest of the championship series. Mecom Racing only lasted two years at the Speedway, but young Al Unser wheeled his Lola to a 2nd place finish in the ’67 race. When the team folded, both Bignotti and Unser were looking for a new team to showcase their talents.

Source: http://www.taurtoisemotorsports.com/sixties/Bignotti.html Inscription: NO MECHANIC COULD HOLD A CANDLE TO BIGNOTTI

         - A J FOYT
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George A. Bignotti's Timeline

1918
1918
San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
2013
September 27, 2013
Age 95
Las Vegas, Clark, Nevada, USA
????
Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, United States