George Bignotti was born in San Francisco, California to two older brothers who got him started in midget racing as a mechanic. As often as needed, George often filled in as a substitute driver and one year won 14 out of 18 races.
Bignotti is renowned as the winningest chief mechanic in open wheel racing history. He tuned cars to seven Indianapolis 500 victories, including those by Graham Hill (1966), Al Unser Sr. (’70 & ’71), Gordon Johncock and Tom Sneva.
Early Life and Education
George Bignotti had a varied career, from flower shop owner to shipyard worker and big-band dance entrepreneur. But his true passion lay in repairing, rebuilding and creating race cars – an interest which took him around the world on multiple continents and eventually led him to fame as an esteemed chief mechanic.
He was a San Francisco native who relocated to Indianapolis in 1958, quickly becoming a household name. An accomplished midget driver himself, his knack for tuning engines and chassis made him an expert at both Indy Car racing as well as Formula One competition. During the Indy Car heyday of the 1960s, he led an array of teams including Mecom-sponsored super team featuring Graham Hill and Al Unser.
George Bignotti was an Indy car master who won more National Championship races than any other chief mechanic in history. From 1961 to 1983, his expertise resulted in seven Indianapolis 500 winners.
His teams included AJ Foyt, Graham Hill, Al Unser, Gordon Johncock and Tom Sneva. Additionally he engineered and tuned the Eagle chassis used by Patrick Racing from 1973 to 1985 before founding his own team with Dan Cotter in 1981.
He was a pioneer of ground effect aerodynamics in Indy cars. His ideas eventually made their way into the Lola-Lotus hybrid cars Al Unser ran with Parnelli Jones Ford team during 1968 and 1969.
Achievements and Honors
George Bignotti was a San Francisco native who relocated to Indianapolis and quickly established himself as one of the most successful chief mechanics in open wheel racing history. He designed powerful engines capable of running for 500-mile races.
He achieved eighty-nine open wheel championships and seven Indy 500 victories, as well as designing the inaugural Indy roadster.
His accomplishments were the fruit of his expertise as a mechanic, engine man, car builder and engineer. He was an innovator in the development of Indycar engines designed for maximum performance and longevity.
Bignotti joined AJ Foyt in 1960 and together they won three USAC Championships within four years, including twice winning the Indy 500 with Foyt driving. Following their split, Bignotti joined Texas oilman John Mecom’s team in 1966.
George Bignotti was born in San Francisco, California and worked as a florist and shipyard worker before following his passion for racing. He began driving midgets for Fred Agabashian in the Bay Cities Racing Association and went on to win three consecutive BCRA championships between 1946, 1947, and 1948.
In 1961, Bignotti joined forces with promising Texas driver AJ Foyt and together they won 27 races including two Indianapolis 500s. Their winning percentage of 77% was never bettered in Indycar’s history.
After parting ways with Foyt in 1965, Bignotti joined John Mecom to field Lolas for drivers Rodger Ward and Jackie Stewart. Later he joined Vel’s Parnelli Jones Ford Racing Team where he was instrumental in two back-to-back Indy wins with Al Unser in 1970 and 1971.
George Bignotti was an esteemed master mechanic and leader in racing, known for his innovations and chassis designs that allowed his cars to handle Indianapolis Motor Speedway better than anyone else on the grid. After spending six years working with Bobby Foyt, Bignotti formed his own team and began winning races in USAC series competition – scoring his first championship alongside Jud Larson in 1958. Aside from his professional achievements, George also enjoyed golfing and had two grandsons from his second wife Kay; sadly passed away September 27, 2013 in Las Vegas Nevada surrounded by his second wife Kay; daughter Mary; and two grandchildren.