Few events in automotive racing history are as horrific or impactful as the deadly mass accident at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans. Seared into the minds of those who were unfortunate enough to be on the scene, the story sadly is fading into obscurity with the march of time. Thankfully, there are gems like a short animated film chronicling the accident and its horrors, directed by Q. Baillieux.
Instead of glamorizing the gruesome violence which unfolded as Mercedes-Benz driver Pierre Levegh crashed into the stands while debris showered panic-stricken fans, it helps viewers to better understand the emotional impact of what unfolded on that notorious day.
When all was said and done, over 80 people lost their lives that day, including Levegh. Instead of canceling the 24 hours endurance race, organizers continued on while remembering those who perished.
The tragedy also helped to push for changes in how the event and similar races were organized and conducted moving forward. While it’s easy to watch Bailleux’s film or watch/read other things about the 1955 Le Mans and feel smug about the mistakes which were made, it’s always easier to solve problems after a tragedy than to spot which problems need to be solved to avert a genuine tragedy.
Nobody on that fateful day thought dozens of people would be wiped out as they gathered to watch the technological marvels of motorsports compete in a grueling race. Instead, just as it is now, the gathering was a joyous one with plenty of revelry. That was cut short in a split second, but to be honest horrific events can still happen at motorsports gatherings, even with all our rules, technologies, etc.
Anyone who races should understand the risks can be extreme. While going fast and pushing the envelope might be in their blood, racers also are living on a razor’s edge and that’s partly what makes motorsports so addicting.
Now check out the film and enjoy.