The Worst and Most Famous Crashes in Motor Racing

Americans have loved the sport of racing for years and years, starting with horses and dogs and turning into motor bikes and cars as we have progressed. Competitive racing is now at a whole new level and people from around the world come to watch some of the most popular motor racing events. Whether we love to watch or love to race ourselves, we cannot get enough of this sport. However, with the thrill of this sport also comes the danger of injuries and even death as drivers reach speeds that we could never imagine. Thankfully, injuries are not often fatal, although some may come out with a broken bone or two. Below are some of the worst crashes in motor racing from over the years.

JGTC, Fuji, 1998

Now known as Super GT, back in the day the JGTC brought together some amazing sports cars to some of the best and most famous race tracks throughout Japan. With Ferraris and Porsches, there is no wonder this is one of the most famous motor racing incidents of its time. During this race in 1998, the weather conditions were terrible and if it had been raced today, the race probably would never have happened. With thick fog and heavy rain, the safety car heading out before the race had driven too fast and had to brake suddenly. This then had a devastating ripple effect, crashing two Porsches together, where a Ferrari 355 then started aquaplaning and struck one of the crashed Porsche’s. The cars burst into flames and the Ferrari came sliding back into the middle of the race track. The driver of this car survived but was trapped in the car for over 90 seconds before the fire was put out. Tetsuya Ota required plastic surgery for the burns that had scarred his face and he never raced again.

San Marino Grand Prix, 1994

This was the first race of the season in 1994. First position was held by one of the Brazilian drivers named Ayrton Senna, which was also the position he held in the first two races. He had no idea what was coming next. Two serious crashes had already occurred during the qualifying races and therefore spirits were dampened. The first crash wasn’t fatal, but the second crash had killed Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger as he lost control at 190mph, striking the concrete wall. On the third race of the season, everyone was hoping that the bad luck was over, but unfortunately this was not the case. Senna was on lap 7 when he hit the wall at 135mph. Nobody knows exactly what killed him, but it is likely that the front wheel separated due to the speed of the crash and struck his head at such speed that he died. Following on from this, new safety measures were brought to Formula 1 to ensure something like this didn’t happen again. Drivers know the risks when they take on something like this as a career, but safety measures could prevent fatalities. If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident, racing or otherwise, and you need support, you can find out more here.

24 Hours of LeMans, 1955

This was the single most tragic motorsport crash in the history of the game. Thankfully, motor racing has come a long way from this and something like this can never happen again. Not only were drivers affected by this crash, but many spectators were also killed. For anyone who loves motor sports, LeMans will be a well-known name, as some of the most legendary races have been driven here. Unfortunately, in 1955 this was not the case, and safety regulations needed to be seriously looked at afterwards. A Jaguar suddenly braked near the pits meaning all the cars that followed behind needed to try and swerve away from the Jaguar, with devastating consequences. One Mercedes could not avoid the cars stopping and hit into an Austin-Healey which then launched into the crowd. The car couldn’t take this hit and broke into pieces, with the engine flying one way into the crowd and the hood flying the other way. This landed on many spectators crushing them and even decapitating some. This Austin-Healey was built with a highly flammable metal, Magnesium, as it is a light metal meaning the car could reach greater speeds. The car burst into flames killing even more spectators who burned to death. The driver of this car was also thrown from his seat and killed. This horrendous accident caused by one brake of a Jaguar killed 84 people and caused over 100 people to be injured.

Daytona 500, 2001

For any of the fans of NASCAR, 2001 was a horrible year for this franchise. Daytona 500 is a well-known race track and therefore this race was very popular. On the final lap of the race, disaster struck. Two cars, drove by Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Sterling Martin, bumped bumpers and this was enough to cause Earnhardt to swing off the track and then back onto it, right into the line of Ken Schrader. Ken could not brake in time and flew into Earnhardt’s car at a shocking speed, sending the car flying into the wall at around 160mph. The car had been pushed into the wall at a bad angle, meaning Earnhardt Sr. gained a fatal fracture to his head. Spectators were not aware of this at first, as the crash didn’t look as bad as it seemed. Later, investigators released a statement suggesting that the force of Earnhardt’s car being pushed into the wall was the same as if he had been dropped from a height of approximately 20 meters.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Thanks to many new safety precautions, crashes like this do not tend to happen anymore. There is always an element of danger when racing in a machine built to go up to speeds of over 200mph and drivers take this risk when they get behind the wheel. Despite this, drivers still love to race, and we will continue to love to watch them.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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