Accident: 1955 Le Mans disaster

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Accident: 1955 Le Mans disaster Gender: N/A
born on 11 June 1955 at 18:28 (= 6:28 PM )
Place Le Mans, France, 48n0, 0e12
Timezone CET h1e (is standard time)
Data source
News report
Rodden Rating A
Collector: Astrodienst
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_gemcol.18.gif 20°01' s_mo.18.gif s_aqucol.18.gif 28°23 Asc.s_scocol.18.gif 22°17'

Accident: 1955 Le Mans disaster (The initial collision between Lance Macklin and Pierre Levegh)
photo: FlyAkwa, license cc-by-sa-4.0


French car accident, the most catastrophic in motorsport history, that occurred during the "Les 24H du Mans" motor race at Circuit de la Sarthe.

The crash started when Jaguar driver Mike Hawthorn pulled to the right side of the track in front of Austin-Healey driver Lance Macklin and started braking for his pit stop. Macklin swerved out from behind the slowing Jaguar into the path of Pierre Levegh, who was passing on the left in his much faster Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. Levegh rear-ended Macklin at high speed, overriding Macklin's car and launching his own car through the air. Levegh's car skipped over a protective earthen berm at 200 km/h (125 mph) and made at least two impacts within the spectator area, the last of which caused the car to disintegrate, throwing him onto the track where he was instantly killed. Large pieces of debris flew into the crowd, killing 83 spectators and injuring nearly 180 more.

There was much debate over blame for the disaster. The official inquiry held none of the drivers specifically responsible and criticised the layout of the 30-year-old track, which had not been designed for cars as fast as those involved in the crash.

Link to Wikipedia biography


Source Notes

From English Wikipedia, no source given: "The accident happened at 6:26 pm, at the end of lap 35, when the first pit stops for the leading cars were starting." [1].

French Wikipedia quotes Michel Bonté, 11 juin 1955: 18h28, Bâbord Armures Éditions, 2004:

"Après une très longue enquête, la commission pourra décrire aussi précisément que possible la séquence qui a mené au drame. À 18 h 28 quatre voitures sortent du virage de « Maison Blanche », d'abord l'Austin-Healey de Lance Macklin (no 26) qui roule à environ 175 km/h, puis la Jaguar de Mike Hawthorn (no 6) qui est en tête de la course à ce moment, suivi de la Mercedes-Benz de Pierre Levegh (no 20) et, un peu en arrière, de la Mercedes-Benz de Juan Manuel Fangio. Ces trois dernières voitures roulent à environ 240 km/h. Dans la courte ligne droite qui suit, Hawthorn double l'Austin de Macklin (no 26), puis se remet à droite, et freine pour entrer au stand.

Macklin (no 26) voit trop tard que la Jaguar (no 6) est en train de ralentir devant lui et, surpris, il donne un brusque coup de volant à gauche et, en même temps, freine si brutalement qu'il bloque ses roues et perd le contrôle de sa voiture qui part dans une violente embardée à travers la piste au moment où arrive la Mercedes-Benz de Levegh (no 20) qui ne peut pratiquement rien faire pour l'éviter. Le bord arrondi de son aile avant droite atteint le bord gauche du coffre de l'Austin et monte sur ce plan incliné, puis la roue suit ; en une fraction de seconde, l'avant de la Mercedes-Benz se trouve soulevé et, ainsi cabrée, elle offre au vent relatif dû à la vitesse son fond plat qui couvre tout le dessous."

(Translation: After a very long investigation, the commission was able to describe as precisely as possible the sequence which led to the tragedy. At 6.28 p.m. four cars came out of the "Maison Blanche" bend, first the Austin-Healey of Lance Macklin (no 26) which was traveling at around 175 km/h, then the Jaguar of Mike Hawthorn (no 6) which was leading the race at this time, followed by the Mercedes-Benz of Pierre Levegh (no 20) and, a little behind, the Mercedes-Benz of Juan Manuel Fangio. These last three cars were travelling at around 240 km/h. In the short straight that follows, Hawthorn overtakes the Austin of Macklin (no 26), then goes back to the right, and brakes to enter the pit. Macklin (no 26) sees too late that the Jaguar (no 6) is slowing down in front of him and, surprised, he swerves sharply to the left and, at the same time, brakes so hard that he locks his wheels and loses control of his car which swerves violently across the track just as Levegh's Mercedes-Benz (#20) arrives and can barely do anything to avoid it. The rounded edge of its right front fender reaches the left edge of the Austin's trunk and rises up that inclined plane, then the wheel follows; in a fraction of a second, the front of the Mercedes-Benz is raised and, thus reared up, it offers to the relative wind due to the speed its flat bottom which covers the entire underside.)


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