10 Most Famous Race Car Accidents

Lest we forget just how dangerous auto-racing is, a list of the 10 most famous race car accidents.

1. Adam Petty, Busch 200
On May 12, 2000, Petty was practicing for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the New Hampshire International Speedway. While entering turn three, Petty’s throttle stuck wide open, causing the car to hit the outside wall virtually head on. Petty was killed instantly due to a basilar skull fracture when he lost control of his car and crashed into a wall
2. TheParis–Madrid raceof May 1903
The track was clogged with spectators so some drivers opted to slow down to a relative crawl in order to give people time to move out of the path of the heavy cars, but this had no effect as people simply waited longer to move over. Worse still, there was severe dust which hampered the drivers’ vision making it near impossible for the drivers to effectively weave around the careless spectators. These conditions resulted in disastrous deaths of at least eight people.
3. The Mille Miglia 1938
According to an Italian website a driver of a BMW 1-Series lost control on a broken stretch of road and ran head-on into the 300SL causing the Mercedes to spin but even though the damage is quite severe there were no major injuries reported.
4. Indianapolis 500
Gordon Smiley was killed in 1982 during the Indianapolis 500 races, when his race car veered directly into the wall during a practice lap before an attempt to qualify for the May 30 Indianapolis 500He died instantly after losing control during a second warm-up lap as it came out of a turn at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.The car turned to the right, directly into the wall and went into the air and burst into flames. It then fell into three large pieces and many smaller fragments. Smiley, whose helmet came off, was entangled in one of the three pieces.
5. 24 hours of Le Mans
Pierre Levegh was following the race leader after two hours of racing when a slower car blocked the way and, although the lead car was able to avoid it, it left Levegh with no time to react. He collided with the slower car and was sent airborne at almost 150 miles per hour. It soared through the air and hit a mound of dirt to the left of spectators. The car somersaulted and parts flew into the crowd. The fuel tank ruptured and the car, which had many components made of magnesium, erupted into flames, sending embers into the track and the crowd. At the end of the day, 83 fans were killed and 120 more were injured.

6. Tom Pryce’s Fatal Crash
At the 1977 South African Grand Prix, Renzo Zorzi car had a problem so he pulled off the track to fix it. The car, however, quickly caught fire and Zorzi was lucky to escape safely. Two race marshals decided to sprint across the track with fire extinguishers. The first marshal barely made it, but the second one, a 19-year-old named Frederick Jansen Van Buren, was struck by Tom Pryce who was driving at 170mph. Van Buren was cleaved in half, and his body very horribly disfigured.Also, the 40-pound fire extinguisher he had been carrying struck Pryce in the head causing his helmet strap to partially decapitate him. Pryce was killed instantly and his car continued to hurtle down the track at almost 170mph, ultimately crashing into the car of driver Jacques Laffite.

7. Roger Williamson’s Fatal Crash
On 29th July 1973, a suspected tyre failure caused Williamson’s car to pitch into the barriers at high speed, on the eighth lap of the race, and be catapulted 300 yards across the track, eventually coming to rest upside down against the barriers on the other side. The petrol tank had ignited whilst being scraped along the track, and the car caught fire. Williamson had not been seriously injured by the impact, but was trapped in the car. The race was not stopped and continued with a local yellow at the scene, a fact which would become significant over the next few minutesEfforts of a fellow driver, David Purley, to save Williamson bore no fruits and he ended up dying of smoke inhalation.

8. Michael Waltrip’s Crash at Bristol in 1990
Waltrip was trying to overlap Robert Pressley when both cars brushed briefly against each other. This sent Waltrip barreling into a steel gate, which gave way sending him into a concrete wall. The car broke into three large pieces with debris scattered far and wide. Waltrip describes his unscathed survival as a miracle.
9. Tetsuya Ota’s Crash
There were 47,000 spectators in attendance for the 67 lap race. At the time of race there was torrential rain and visibility was limited. Following theparade lap, Ota drove his Ferrari F355 through the starting line then suddenly slowed down, causing it to aquaplane and swerve left directly onto the Porsche. Both exploded into a fireball on impact.The Ferrari, after hitting the wall, slid across to the other side of the track and rested at thepit stopexit. Another Porsche swerved to avoid Ota. Luckily, the driver of the blazing Porsche managed to stumble out of his car with a fractured right leg and was quickly attended to by rescue officials. Ota was trapped in his car for 1 minute and 30 seconds while exposed to 800-degree temperatures and had to be dragged out of the car by asafety marshal who lay him on the ground which caused his semi-melted visor to sag onto his face causing further burns. another marshal spotted Ota, picked him up, and bundled him into the circuit’sminivan, rather than theambulance and took him to hospital where he was fortunate to survive.
10. Formula One
Ayrton Senna was designated as the greatest F1 driver in its history by the Formula one’s 271 poll. However, the celebrations were short lived since in 1994 season, as Senna was leading at Imola, his car left the track and slammed into a wall at 135 miles per hour.The wheel housing was pushed backwards and slammed into his helmet, causing fatal skull fractures.