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The deadliest car crash ever

If you ask car enthusiasts what they consider as the deadliest car crash ever, many would say that it is the 1955 Le Mans motor race. The crash had caused parts of the racing car to fly over the spectators.  Pierre Levegh, the driver, along with other 83 people from the audience died. There were about 120 people injured. In terms of casualties, this is probably the most catastrophic accident in the history of motorsports.  Mercedes Benz had hired the 49 years old Levegh to drive the race car as he had shown determination in 1952. He had driven 23 straight hours and didn’t had any alternate. He didn’t win because a missed gear change lead to engine failure. In 1955, Mercedes-Benz had launched the 300 SLR sport car for this championship season. The car was made from ultra lightweight magnesium alloy in order to reduce car weigh and improve its performance.

Le Mans 1955 start

Le Mans 1955 start

The 1955 Le Mans arena was not equipped with safety measures compared to present day arenas. The condition of the circuit was the same since the inception of the race. Things were different in 1955 as top speeds of cars reached about 185 miles per hour compared to 1923 when cars could only go as fast as 60 miles per hour. The 1955 car race began in June 11. Top competing manufacturers were Jaguar, Ferrari, Aston, Martin and Mercedes-Benz. The race was fast as records were constantly broken.

1955 Le Mans race before the crash

1955 Le Mans race before the crash

At lap 35, Hawthorne who was driving a Jaguar D-type didn’t notice the signal to stop for fuel where he should but instead of making another lap, he stopped. The unexpected stop was too sudden for Macklin who was driving a Healey therefore his car threw dust that blocked the view of Levegh. He swerved at the center of the track but was out of control. Levegh had no time or space to stop and he hit on the rear of Macklin’s car. The 300 SLR was launched into the air causing some parts of the car to get flown and loosened upon collision. This is something that is expected with cars running at such great speed.

Pierre Levegh taking the turn right before the crash

Pierre Levegh taking the turn right before the crash

1955 Le Mans crash

1955 Le Mans crash

The bonnet and front axle got separated from the frame and got thrown to the crowd. It badly injured the spectators.  The heavy engine also broke free and was hurled to the spectators. The ones who mounted on the table to get better view were in the direct path of the car parts. Levegh was thrown out of the car and crushed his skull on the ground. The fuel tank was also ruptured and it ignite the alloys that burst into flames. Rescuers didn’t know how to attack the magnesium fire and poured water which made things worse. After the incident, several drivers didn’t join Le Mans again.

Αfter the crash

Trying to pull down the fire after the crash

 

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