Having hundreds of kilograms of metal coated around you, plying a road made of hard asphalt at 150 miles per hour, knowing that there is a chance of a 1 in 100 crash that could result in death.
No doubt whatsoever, Sportscar racing (automobile racing) is one of the most dangerous sports on Earth. Cars are moving so fast and accidents are as violent as possible.
This article would take a look at some of the most dangerous, gruesome, and most heartbreaking car accident fatalities ever recorded in the world of automobile racing. But before our Top 5 of the worst car racing accident of all time, we'd take a peep at the concepts of Auto racing sport and its history.
Historical Highlight of Sports Racing
Car racing is an aspect of Motorsport that comprises of different automobiles racing together for competition. It is a professional and amateur sport that has gained recognition throughout the world. It is a sport carried out in diversified forms, on roads, closed circuits, and on tracks. Some of these forms include: speedway racing, hill climbs racing, Grand Prix racing, etc.
As a result of its widespread recognition, local, national, and international bodies have been set up to organize competitions, create rules, set a disciplinary standard, and Govern the overall affairs of this sport including the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), World Championship for Sports Cars, International Championship for GT Manufacturers, etc.
Car racing soon gained popularity immediately after petrol-fuelled engines where invented in the 1880s. The first well-known race competition was organized and held in 1895, from Paris to Rouen, France, the race covered a distance of about 1 178km. Still, in the same year, The United States had its first automobile race, a race covering over 87 km, coordinated from Chicago to Evanston, Illinois. Both of these races were sponsored by Newspaper organizations, probably for promotional benefits.
Many town-to-town races became popular in France, and other European countries, so popular that it gradually became a norm. Sadly in 1903, Governmental authorities had to stop some of these races going by the car accident reports and car accident statistics which were so unimpressive considering the high number of car accident victims recorded.
This didn't in any way stop the growth of automobile racing. The sport has so far been favorably embraced internationally from the 1900s down to our day, even as technological advancement has been pivotal in enhancing general safety associated with the sport especially when it comes to offering better protection to the drivers and fans.
Sports racing events are now one of the most popular sporting events in the world of sports
Despite all of these, anyone who watches this sport or participates in any form of it would unanimously agree to the undeniable fact that there is immense danger involved.
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The most tragic sports racing accidents
Below is a highlight of some of the most tragic accidents that have ever occurred in the sport of automobile racing, arranged in no particular order.
1. 24 Hours of Le Mans- 1955
One of the worst disasters ever recorded in the Motorsport. This accident did not only send shivers down the spine of car racing fans but to the entire sporting world.
This whole accident began when the charming racer, Mike Hawthorn made a dangerous decision, by suddenly making a pit stop. Hawthorn's move to the side immediately affected the driver behind him, Lance Macklin. Who was forced to swerve as quickly as possible to avoid colliding with Hawthorn?
The 1955 Le-Mans race tragedy claimed over 80 lives
That swerve put Macklin in a terrible horizontal position, directly in front of another racer, Pierre Levegh, whose car speedily went right up Macklin's car and flew into the air like a missile.
Levegh was launched out of the car like a bullet and died instantly. His car while in the air was torn into hundreds of metallic fragments, these fragments flew directly like war arrows into the densely packed crowd. Within three seconds 83 spectators became lifeless, many were beheaded before they could even move.
See a video of the worst motor racing accident in sports racing history
Le Mans Motor Racing Disaster (1955)
2. The 1978 Italian Grand Prix
Sometimes car racing accidents are extremely worse than they initially appear. This was the case at the '78 Italian Grand Prix, where a non-fatal Formula racing accident took a heartbreaking turn.
It all started when the officials became a little bit too excited, they started the race when some cars were not done lining up properly. What happened next was utter chaos, the cars launched forward with speed bumping, smashing, and colliding with each other. It looked like a mob of cars.
Several drivers including Britain's James Hunt were in danger. Swedish racer, Ronnie Peterson slammed his car into a barrier and immediately went into flames. Other drivers succeeded in pulling him out before he was consumed by the flames, Peterson was thought to have been in a stable condition. He died the following day due to severe complications from the burns he experienced.
The 1978 Italian Grand Prix crash claimed the life of Ronnie Peterson
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3. The 1977 Japanese Grand Prix
One of the most shocking accidents in car racing history took place during the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix, involving six-time Grand Prix winner and one of the most popular racers of his time, Gilles Villeneuve.
Villeneuve was well known for his risk-taking attitude, he believed that the only way of knowing your limit is to go faster and faster until you overcome it.
Sadly while rallying to overtake a fellow driver, he got involved in the most tragic collision ever recorded. Their cars smashed each other, sending Villeneuve's Ferrari somersaulting over a blockade, right where spectators were standing. Miraculously Villeneuve left the scene unhurt though a race martial and a photographer lost their life.
Five years later Villeneuve was involved in a similar accident, which fatally launched him out of his car, this time he left the scene, a dead man. Fifteen years later his son, Jacques Villeneuve accomplished his father's dream, he became the first Canadian to win the formula one world championship.
The famous 1977 Japanese Grand Prix crash claimed the lives of 2 person
4. The 1986 Rally de Portugal
The 1980s was a period where the Group B rally cars gained lots of popularity among car racing enthusiasts. These vehicles were known to be astonishingly light and fiercely powerful, a combination which equally increased the excitement for fans and the danger factor for spectators and drivers.
The Rally de Portugal was a race that had already stained its reputation by allowing spectators to stand dangerously close to the road with racing cars flying by. Some drivers actively showed their dissatisfaction with this race, as crowds continued getting centimeters closer to the cars.
In 1986 people's fears eventually came to a realization. Joachim Santos accidentally lost traction, swerved off the road, and unsurprisingly flew directly into the crowds, smashing four spectators with three dying instantly, a fourth, moments later. The accident left dozens of spectators seriously injured. This accident was one of the factors that brought a racing red flag end to the Group B era.
See the video below for the heart-stopping crash at the Rally de Portugal of 1986:
Video: Accident rally du Portugal 1986
5. The 1977 South African Grand Prix
This gruesome accident at first, started as something non-fatal. It started in a kind of harmless fashion.Italian racer, Renzo Zorzi while racing, noticed that his engine was failing and began heating up. He quickly made a smart decision by pulling over on the side of the race track. Moments later the engine detonated like a bomb, bursting out in flames, a dramatic spectacle but a harmless one, as Zorzi made it out of the Vehicle in time.
The major problem began when two marshals took the dangerous decision to run across the racing track to the other side in an attempt to come to Zorzi's aid. The trouble was that a part of the track had a dip, meaning that these two men would lack the ability to see any of the cars coming towards them neither would the drivers see them.
The first marshal ran across successfully, but the young teenager who was behind him wasn't too successful. He was smashed off the track by an onrushing vehicle dying instantly while the fire extinguisher he was holding, moved like a missile, directly into the head of the driver who hit him, Tom Pryce. He died instantly and the crowd watched in horror as his car kept racing.
Tom Pryce lost his life at the 1977 South African Grand Prix
Car racing is unarguably a dangerous sport, posing threats to both spectators and racers. It doesn't matter how skilled or experienced you may be, as some of the best racers have lost their lives, it only takes one malfunction or one error.
Racers should not put their focus mainly on the fame, glory, and money attached to this sport, attention should also be allocated to all safety measures laid down as this could help save their life, and that of others.
We hope that our post about 5 of the worst car racing accident of all time gives you insights into how car drivers have sacrificed for the joy of speed of car enthusiasts and pay more respect to these true risk-takers on the tracks!