Tales the vault – The Le Mans Disaster sixty years on

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The 1955 Le Mans 24 hour race was held on 12 June 1955. It was during an era of motor racing when drivers would race in not just one series they would race in others while chasing the F1 title.

The race started at 15:00 French time as it has done most years since the races birth in 1923. The crash happened after Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh crash was caused by him going to fast while trying to pass Lance Macklin’s Austin-Healey sending into the bank by the grandstand and immediately exploded. Parts of the wreckage were blown into the enclosure, killing scores of mostly-French spectators.

The three teams which competed were Ferrari, jaguar and Mercedes. Following Levegh crash the manager of the Mercedes team decided to withdraw from the race as a mark of respect to those killed in the disaster. Spectators on the far side of the track were unaware of the crash.

The official investigation into the crash concluded that the accident was a racing incident. The spectators deaths was  blamed on inadequate safety standards for track design, leading to a ban on motorsports in France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and other nations, until the tracks could be brought to a higher safety standards.

Prior to the race Levegh complained that the course was too narrow near the pit-stop area and the grandstand. The race continued after as Mike Hawthorn was the winner of the race.

Mercedes withdrew from all forms of motorsports and didn’t return to racing until 1996. The German and Swiss Grand Prix were cancelled. Motoracing in Switzerland remained banned still today.


Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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