Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser has passed away at his home in New Mexico, aged 87.
Unser is one six family members to have raced at the Indianapolis 500 and along with brother, Al Unser – a four-time winner himself – are the only siblings to have won the prestigious event.
After serving in the US Air Force between 1953 and 1955, the three Unser brothers Al, Jerry and Bobby decided to enter USAC competition.
His first major win came at the Pikes Peak challenge in 1966 and success would continue to follow, as after his first Indy 500 win in 1968, he would go on to claim his first title, his second came in 1974.
Unser’s final Indy 500 win in 1981 became controversial after Unser was penalised for passing cars under caution which then handed the win to rival Mario Andretti.
After a lengthy appeal process, his penalty was rescinded and was reinstated as the winner of the event.
In 1990, Unser was inducted into the International Motorsports and IMS Hall of Fames respectively and in 1994 was also inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Former team boss and IMS owner Roger Penske said in a statement: “There simply was no one quite like Bobby Unser. Bobby was a ferocious competitor on the track, and his larger-than-life personality made him one of the most beloved and unique racers we have ever seen.
“Bobby brought so much to Team Penske during his time with our team, including a memorable victory in the 1981 Indianapolis 500. Beyond his many wins and accomplishments, Bobby was a true racer that raised the performance of everyone around him.
“He was also one of the most colourful characters in motorsports. Throughout his time as a driver, a commentator and an ambassador of our sport, Bobby’s stories and his passion for racing were legendary.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with Lisa, the Unser family and Bobby’s many friends and fans during this difficult time.”
IMS President Doug Bowles also issued a statement: “When you mention icons in racing, and particularly the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bobby Unser was a legend.
“He could drive, and win, in any type of car and on any type of track. He was magical at Indy. But driving was just a piece of what made Bobby so iconic.
“Over the last several years, I have seen the true Bobby Unser – the man who loved our sport, loved the Indianapolis 500 and loved to be with the fans.
“He would go out of his way to do whatever he could to be here in the month of May to help us keep the sport growing. He was always available to give speeches, to sign autographs or just to tell stories.
“His driving record speaks for itself. His lifelong passion for promoting our sport and his enthusiastic, no sugar-coated opinions that continued after he hung up his helmet had such a meaningful impact on our sport.
“Everyone at IMS extends our deepest sympathies to Bobby’s family, friends and fans. He was one of a kind and will be deeply missed, but always cherished in the heart of every race fan.”
Unser is survived by his wife, Lisa; sons Bobby Jr. and Robby; and daughters Cindy and Jeri.