Page 18 - PCA Metro NY Region POST October 2018
P. 18

Truly Miscella- neous Ramblings
Since I haven’t been to the track much this sum- mer I don’t have new insights. This column is mostly historical stories, but it ends with a small thought about Porsches so that it will earn its place
Le Mans 1955
It is 63 years since racing’s worst tragedy, and likely few of my readers know much about it, but racing devotees ought to, and besides it is a fascinating story. The fast cars that year were the superb Mer- cedes 300SLR, the Jaguar D-type and the Ferrari 121 LM. The biggest names in racing were participating, such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss (who is still alive at age 88), Pierre Levegh, Phil Hill, Mike Hawthorn, Masten Gregory, Paul Frere and John Fitch.
The tragedy occurred during the first set of scheduled pits stops in early evening. Throughout the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which started in 1923, the pits were not separated from the racing sur- face – they were simply an area on the right-hand side of the track. Lance Mack- lin in an Austin Healey stayed to the right to get to his pit. Mike Hawthorn, in his much faster Jaguar, was also pitting and outbraked Macklin (due to the Jaguar’s
disk brakes). Macklin, to avoid hitting Hawthorn, moved to the left into the path of Levegh’s Mercedes which was going 150mph. The impact was so profound that Levegh was killed instantly and his Mercedes disintegrated, shooting much of its debris into the main grandstand which was barely separated from the racing sur- face. More than 85 spectators were killed and almost 200 injured.
There were a number of after-effects – Mercedes withdrew from racing and did not re-emerge until 1994. Le Mans was redesigned by 1956 to widen the track and include a pit-wall, separating the pits from the racing surface. (Author‘s note: it is hard to believe that it took a tragedy of this degree to cause installation of such an obvious safety measure.) Numerous countries outlawed car racing, and in others there was a move away from us- ing public roads as tracks and instead towards purpose-built race tracks. Our own Watkins Glen track migrated from city streets to the current location in 1956 due to numerous deaths. The last Mille Miglia (“thousand miles”), which had been run on public roads between Rome and Brescia and back since 1927, was held
in 1957, during which a crash killed the Ferrari driver Marquess de Portago, his navigator and 9 spectators. The Targa Florio in Sicily, also on public roads, which had been run since 1906, came to an end in 1977 after an almost annual series of deaths.
(Continued on page 18)
Track Ramblings
 zine about Porsches.
(I hope) in a maga-

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