British Pathé Film of the 1955 LeMans Disaster

Perhaps no other event shaped the future of motorsport more than the 1955 LeMans crash that caused more than 80 spectator fatalities. Among other things, motor racing was banned in Switzerland as a result of this crash until 2007. Mercedes pulled out of the race and didn’t enter a factory-sponsored team in any race until the 80’s. Certainly track design was forever changed.

It’s not just snow-fencing, hay bales, and sitting on the curb while sportscars fly by anymore. I once paused momentarily while descending the stairs at the Michigan International Speedway during a race just to experience the sensation as a car wooshed past at 200mph only feet away. It was thrilling then, even with that handful of feet, a concrete wall, and high fencing between us. I can only imagine what it must have been like without those physical barriers there—I occasionally wish for it. But looking back at LeMans ’55 is a good reminder of why it simply cannot be. Even in today’s tracks with their 20 foot crash fences, endless runoff, and limited view for spectators, there is still an element of risk just sitting in the stands at the track.

DISCUSS (6 Comments)

  1. Pilote

    Road America isn’t as much fun as it was before the catch-fencing went up.

    And that’s why I enjoy flagging for club events as much as being a paying spectator.

  2. Bboonie

    RT @TheChicane: British Pathé Film of the 1955 LeMans Disaster:

    Perhaps no other event shaped the future of motorsport… http://t.co/G…

  3. Captain Ned

    I just wish that one of these days the film of the crash itself would be reversed to show things as they actually happened.

    Look closely and it’s clear. All of the sponsor banners are backwards, not to mention the tiny fact that Levegh flew off the left side of the track, not the right side.

  4. Pilote

    Captain Ned: Yup. This is the clearest vid I’ve seen–maybe digitally enhanced?

    There’s a comprehensive account of the crash in Chris Nixon’s “Mon Ami Mate,” a twin bio of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins.

    This is the clearest video

  5. WRX15

    Whats that in the air on the right hand side at the 20 second mark? Goodyear Blimp? UFO?

  6. Joe H

    I think the hoardings are just pointed towards the crowd and you can see through them.

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