Motorsport takes a grim toll

2011-10-18 07:58

British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, who died in a fiery, high-speed 15-car crash in Las Vegas, is the latest in a long and tragic list of race drivers who died behind the wheel.

Hundreds of drivers, in various forms of motor racing, have been killed in crashes during races and practice, along with spectators and track officials.

Motor racing bodies have gradually introduced a range of safety measures and rule changes that have helped reduce the number of racing fatalities but have not been able to completely prevent them.

Motor racing's blackest day was at Le Mans in 1955 when Pierre Levegh crashed and his car catapulted into the crowd, killing the driver and more than 80 spectators.


F1, the sport's premier class, was littered with deaths during the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's and the victims including some of the sport's most successful and popular drivers. Scotsman Jim Clark won the World championship twice (1963 and 1965) but died in an F2 crash in Germany in 1968.

In 1982 Canadian Jacques Villenueve was killed during qualifying for the Belgian G when he drove into the back of a slower car and was launched into a crash fence.

The most recent driver to be killed in F1 was Brazilian three-time World champion Ayrton Senna, killed during the San Marino GP a day after Roland Ratzenberger was killed at the same track during qualifying.

The previous driver to die in IndyCar before Wheldon was Paul Dana, killed during the warm-up for the 2006 season-opener in Miami. Nascar lost one of its favourite sons when Dale Earnhardt crashed into the wall on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001 and was killed.

Indy racing drivers react to Wheldon's death.

  • Ian - 2011-10-18 09:40

    It was Gilles that died not Jacques, Jacques was his son who won the world championship.

  • Stuart - 2011-10-18 09:42

    Umm, if you bothered to proof read your articles before publishing them you'd find that it was actually Gilles Villeneuve who was killed in a crash, not his son Jacques (who you'll find actually went on to win a world championship). Look it up, it's true...

  • Stephen - 2011-10-18 17:28

    All racing fatalities are tragic, but a handful of drivers have died in the last 20 years.That many people are probably killed on SA roads in a day.

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