Le Mans - 1969 - John Woolfe fatal crash

Soon after the start the poor handling of the 917 and the inexperience of the driver resulted in a drama: the death of British driver John Woolfe on lap 1 when his private Porsche 917 crashed at Maison Blanche. Woolfe was killed, probably due the fact that he had not bothered to put on his safety belt. This was likely done because of the style of the traditional start used at Le Mans until that year, in which drivers were required to run across the track to their cars, climb in and get it started as quickly as possible to pull away from the grid. Woolfe likely sacrificed strapping his safety belts in order to gain a better start. The nearly full fuel tank from Woolfe's car became dislodged and landed in front of the oncoming Ferrari 312P of Chris Amon. Amon ran over it, causing it to explode under his car, which led to his retirement. The race was stopped for 2 hours due to these two first lap incidents, but was eventually restarted.

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1969 Le Mans Start - Jacky Ickx Walks to his car
1969 was the last year of the tradition Le Mans start. As a protest against safety, Jacky Ickx walked to his ford GT40 while the rest of the field ran to their cars and tried to get away as quickly as possible. He was protesting about the way drivers failed to shut their doors properly and have the seatbelts fastened properly. The previous year [1968] a driver had been seriously injured when his door had blown off on the mulsanne straight. Half a lap later Privateer John Wolfe fatally crashed his 917 at Mansion Blanche. Ickx went on to win the race.

Jean-Louis Lafosse's Fatal Crash
Jean-Louis Lafosse is killed during the 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans. _____________________________________ Lafosse concluded the second hour of the race in seventh place and continued to increase his pace as the car gets lighter and lighter. And it was then, at 17h03 of Saturday, 13 June 1981, that tragedy struck. Less than half-an-hour after the green flag was flown again, Lafosse, still in seventh place and just about to complete his stint, was driving down the Mulsanne straight a little behind the Lola T600 - Ford of Guy Edwards, Emilio de Villota and Juan Fernández, at the moment with the first at the wheel. Suddenly, a little before the restaurants located at the main straight, a point where the Group VI cars were already at full speed in fifth gear, the Rondeau turned sharply to the right - probably due to a collapse of the front-right suspension -, impacting the guard-rail in a terrible shunt right before a marshal post. Two marshals, Mr. Galliene and Mr. Hardy, were hit by the car and its debris and were seriously injured. The Rondeau bounced back, spinning across the track, and crashing against the left guard-rail before stopping in the middle of the course hundreds of meters later. The car was completely destroyed, particularly its front end; Lafosse, fully exposed, was killed instantly. Some attributed Lafosse's death to the fact that he preferred racing with the safety belts very loose, but the sheer violence of the crash and the level of damage experienced by the Rondeau made the accident unsurviveable. Photographic evidence taken just before Lafosse's accident indicate that the car had been damaged prior to it, including a picture showing a loose right headlight lens, pieces of grass in the central frontal air intake and bumps in the bodywork. Also, the lip around the lower edge of the front bodywork is missing in this picture. Therefore it is quite likely that Lafosse, running in a light fuel load, had an off at some other point of the circuit just before the accident when he was trying to speed his pace around the track. The damaged caused by this excursion was fundamental for the suspension or tyre failure that led to the accident at the Mulsanne straight. This meant the end of a man that, as Christian Moity and Jean-Marc Teissèdre once wrote, had a deserved reputation of courage and friendliness that ought to be added to his racing results.

917 engine starting - 1st time in 30 years
Share with us the awesome experience of hearing a Porsche 917 engine!

Le Mans 1955 Disaster: How it happened
The worst accident in motor racing history happened at the 1955 24 hours of Le Mans. The 1955 Le Mans disaster lead to the death of 83 spectators and Pierre Levegh, more than 100 more people were injured. The photographer of this footage was injured but did survive the incident. This footage was only recently released after being hidden from the public for almost 55 years. The footage formed part of the evidence in an enquiry into the cause of the incident which absolved all drivers involved, and came to the conclusion that the track had insufficient protection for the spectators. Mercedes voluntarily withdrew from the race 8 hours in, Jaguar declined to do the same. Mike Hawthorn won the race. Hawthorn is said to have admitted causing the incident behind closed doors though never in public.