Worst Race Car Crashes
A list of graphic videos of the worst race car crashes in automotive history. Many of these crashes were fatal. Automobile racing is a dangerous sport, and this list should serve as proof of the bravery (foolhardiness?) race car drivers exhibit out on the track. Thankfully, vehicle safety technology has increased greatly throughout the years and fatalities have become much less common. This list is updated as these horrible accidents occur, including the latest such as Dan Wheldon’s fatal crash. If there are any crashes I have missed, please let me know in the comments. Note that this is a list of videos, which is why crashes such as Depailler’s death or Francois Cevert’s gruesome crash in which he was cut in half have not been included. Drive safe.
Worst Race Car Crashes
The following list looks at 15 of the worst crashes in auto racing history. As you’ll see, no one sport holds the monopoly for crashes as these tragedies strike as easily on the Formula 1 tracks as they do on the gravel and snow of the Rally circuits. These crashes are all considered bad for a number of reasons. Some are rated as the worst because of the number of people killed and injured. Other crashes are listed because of the spectacular nature of the crash itself. Many led to the introduction of new rules and regulations meant to keep drivers and fans safe, while others are simply remembered because they took the life of a well-liked or promising driver.
Worst Race Car Crashes
One of the earliest organized motorsport races was also one of the most dangerous. The first recognized car race occurred almost ten years earlier but as the 1903 race demonstrated, much more experience and practice was needed. The competition was over 1300km long and involved around 300 racers who used cars and motorcycles. No repairs were allowed between stages – only during race time. It is therefore unsurprising that around half of the vehicles retired or crashed during the race. The relative inexperience of officials, racers and crowds were also demonstrated with numerous crashes. Drivers struck railway crossings signs, trees and each other. Cars caught on fire or fell apart. Spectators stood out on the road or ran in front of cars causing numerous crashes and injuries. By the end, eight people were confirmed killed and dozens of others were injured.
Worst Race Car Crashes
The final race of the 1999 CART World Series was held at the California Speedway – known now as the Auto Club Speedway. Taking part in the race was 24 year old Canadian driver Greg Moore. He had been involved in an accident the week before the race when a vehicle knocked him off his motor-scooter. With an injured right hand, Moore was allowed to enter the final race. On lap 9, Moore lost control of his car, spinning onto the infield grass at 200mph. The car skipped over an access road, flipping and striking a concrete barrier directly with the top of the car. Moore was pulled from the car suffering from massive internal and head injuries. He died soon after.
Worst Race Car Crashes
The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix was the third race of the season. Pole position was held by Brazilian Ayrton Senna, a position he held in the previous two races as well. Race festivities had been dampened by two serious crashes in qualifying. First, Rubens Barrichello had been badly hurt when his car was launched into the air and crashed into the tire barrier – knocking him unconscious. Second, Austrian Roland Ratzenberger was killed when he lost control at 190mph, striking the concrete wall and suffering a skull fracture (similar to Dale Earnhardt Sr.). On race day, there was more bad news as Senna’s car struck the wall on lap 7 at 135mph, fatally injuring him. It is believed the front wheel separated during the crash and struck his head causing massive trauma. All of this led to the enforcement of new safety measures in Formula 1.
2 + – 93 39 3 people just voted on Roger Williamson’s Fatal Crash v Video: YouTube For me, this is the hardest crash to watch. In Roger Williamson’s second Formula One race, a tire failure likely caused his car to flip over and burst into flames. Williamson avoided serious injury, but was now trapped in his car. The inept safety marshals did not know what to do, nor were they equipped with fire proof clothing.Driver David Purley abandoned his car and sprinted across the track to save Williamson. Purley could hear Williamson shouting for him to help. Purley desperately tried to put out the fire and flip Williamson’s car back over, begging the marshals to help him. While the marshals did nothing, Purley did his best, but ultimately failed as the other drivers simply drove past. By the time the fire truck arrived, eight minutes later, Williamson had already died from asphyxiation. The whole scene was broadcast on live television. 67 Insane Car Modification FAILs 10 Celebrities Who Survived Plane Crashes
What draws spectators to the race day itself is the competition and excitement occurring on the track. Drivers overtaking one another, cars breaking down, underdogs coming from behind to snatch a victory – these are all crowd pleasers. Of course, what also attracts much attention to this high-speed sport are the crashes. That’s not to say fans love a crash – most cringe and worry at the sight of one – but they do provide a mix of the spectacular with the tragic and unexpected. When they do happen, crashes remind us that motorsports are exciting but extremely dangerous.
The Mille Miglia was a yearly endurance race similar to today’s rally races. All types of cars were entered with the slowest vehicles starting first so roadways would not have to be closed as long. In 1957, the combination of speed and spectators led to the banning of this race. There were two fatal crashes involving drivers. The most serious involved Alfonso de Portago and his co-driver Edmund Nelson. The Ferrari that they were in was travelling at an estimated 120mph when a tire burst. The blowout caused the car to leave the road, rolling over and reportedly tearing the two drivers in half. If that wasn’t bad enough, the vehicle struck a crowd and killed an additional nine people.
3 + – 92 44 Tom Pryce’s Fatal Crash v Video: YouTube Just a warning, this video is especially gruesome. At the 1977 South African Grand Prix, Renzo Zorzi had a problem with his car and pulled off the track. Zorzi’s car quickly caught fire, and Zorzi safely jumped out. This is where the carnage began.Two race marshals decided to sprint across the track with fire extinguishers. The first marshal barely made it, but the second one, a 19-year-old named Frederick Jansen Van Buren, was struck by Tom Pryce who was driving at 170mph. Van Buren was cleaved in half, and his body so horribly dismembered that his boss was only able to identify him by summoning all of the other race marshals and seeing who was missing. But it didn’t stop there. The 40-pound fire extinguisher Van Buren had been carrying struck Pryce in the head with such force that Pryce’s helmet strap partially decapitated him. The fire extinguisher landed in the parking lot outside of the track, having flown over the grandstand. Pryce was killed instantly. Pryce’s car continued to hurtle down the track at almost 170mph, ultimately crashing into the car of driver Jacques Laffite.
If there is a crash during a race, traditionally the yellow flag comes out and cars drive under caution until the situation is sorted out. During the 1964 Indy 500 driver Dave MacDonald reportedly had a very fast but unstable car. Other drivers reported that MacDonald was taking risks and that his car seemed a bit out of control at times. On the second lap, his car spun out and struck the wall, bursting into flames. The blazing car slid back onto the track causing several cars to crash. Driver Eddie Sachs tried to find an opening in the chaos to get through but ended up hitting MacDonald’s vehicle broadside, causing another explosion. Sachs was killed instantly and MacDonald later succumbed to significant burns to his body. The race did not continue under a caution – It was the first time the Indianapolis 500 was stopped because of an accident.
1 + – 190 63 1955 Le Mans Disaster v Video: YouTube Some prefer to point to the deaths of famous race car drivers as “the worst” in history. They’re wrong. In 1955, the worst disaster in automotive racing history occurred. What happened? At Le Mans, Jaguar driver Mike Hawthorn belatedly noticed his pit crew’s signal to stop for gas and slammed on his brakes. The Austin-Healey behind him, driven by Lance Macklin, lost control and veered straight across the track directly in front of Pierre Levegh driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR. Levegh collided into the ramp, shaved the back of the Austin-Healey at approximately 150mph, and was sent airborne. Pierre was thrown from his Mercedes and killed instantly. His Mercedes slammed into a dirt embankment, and flipped over, launching the front axle, the engine, and the hood of the Mercedes into the crowd. The axle careened through the grand stand, leaving a trail of of bodies. The hood spun through the spectators like a guillotine, decapitating full groups of people at a time. The engine itself killed many as well. The Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, made largely out of magnesium (which was common at the time to reduce weight), burst into flames, and then exploded when the fire marshals sprayed water on it. In the end, 83 spectators were dead and another 120 injured. As the only driver unable to defend himself, Levegh was largely blamed. As more footage has been acquired over the past several decades, though, it is now obvious that Hawthorne and Mackliin were at fault. The first clip within the included video was likely taken by a spectator right before he or she was killed.