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2011-12-02 07:18

HORROR-CRASH CAR: It still requires much attention but this is the Austin Healey involved in the 1956 Le Mans crash that killed 83 spectators..

London - A vintage British racing car at the centre of motorsport's most deadly accident sold for a record-breaking price - the equivalent of about R10.6-million - at a British auction.

The 1953 Austin Healey 100 Special Test Car was involved in the 1955 Le Mans disaster which claimed the lives of French driver Pierre Levegh - and 83 spectators. It had lain untouched in an English barn for 42 years.

FOUR BIDDERS

A spokeswoman for Bonhams auction house said on December 1, 2011: "This is a fantastic result for the Austin-Healey and a world record for any car of this make at auction. Everybody is delighted - the auction went on for about 10 minutes and there was a tense, excited and hushed atmosphere in the room as four bidders competed for the car.

"We had bidders in the room and over the phone,but the car finally went to a private buyer who was in the room."

The car, driven by Englishman Lance Macklin during the ill-fated 1955 race, was shunted by Levegh's vehicle which then fire-balled into the crowd.

WHAT PRICE INFAMY? It doesn't look like much but this Austin Healey has been auctioned for the equivalent of R10.6-million.

Here's how it was described in a contemporary news report: "French driver Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes-Benz 300SLR bumped a much slower Austin-Healy 3000 at over 150mph (about 240km/h) and went airborne, bouncing off an earthen bank. Careering end-over-end like a wounded animal, it leaped 20 feet into the air and crashed to the ground in flames breaking in two at the firewall whereupon the absolute worst began..."

The auctioned vehicle, which also competed in the 1953 24-hour race, was impounded by French authorities after the accident before being released back to the Donald Healey Motor Company 18 months later. It was then repaired and restored before being bought by Thursday's seller in 1969.

The car remained unrestored in the owner's barn until it was brought to auction at Mercedes-Benz World in Weybridge, south-east England.

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