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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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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.





Jo Bonnier's Fatal Crash *Extended*
From Motorsport Memorial. _________________________ In the early stages of the 1972 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the two yellow painted, Ford Cosworth DFV-powered Lola T280s entered by the Écurie Bonnier not only had been front-runners between the dominants Matra Simcas and Alfa Romeos, but even led the race. Jorge de Bagration-Hugues de Fierlandt-Mário de Araújo Cabral in the #7 car were leading during the first one-and-a-half hour, while the #8 car driven by Joakim Bonnier-Gijs Van Lennep-Gérard Larrousse setting the fastest lap of the race on the third hour with Van Lennep at the wheel, in 3min46.9, averaging 216.413 km/h. When de Fierlandt had definitively abandoned with a broken clutch during the 8th hour of race, Bonnier and his team mates decided to drive conservatively going on to the finish line with their Lola #8, that had lost many positions after several pit stops due to gearbox and brake problems. At 08h15 on Sunday, 11 June 1972 morning, with good visibility and dry asphalt, Bonnier was traveling in 8th place. Shortly after passing at Mulsanne corner, he was about to lap the Filipinetti-entered Ferrari 365GTB4 #35 of Florian Vetsch on the approach to the Indianapolis bend before Arnage. The Swiss amateur driver Vetsch, who was running in the middle of the road, didn't realize Bonnier had arrived alongside him on the right side, the two cars running only inches apart. Vetsch closed the turn and Bonnier tried to avoid the Ferrari, passing with the right wheels on the green beside the track, but hit the other car, and rolled over. The collision launched him over the barriers, ending into the trees, Vetsch also crashed backward into the armco on the left side and the Ferrari, which fuel tank ruptured in the crash, erupted in flames. Vic Elford who was the first competitor to arrive to the place of accident, looking at the burning Ferrari, immediately stopped his Alfa Romeo 33TT3 and got out, trying to help the unfortunate driver. But he found the car empty, being Florian Vetsch unhurt and already escaped. Elford was shocked, he restarted his Alfa Romeo just to run immediately into the pits to be replaced by his team mate Helmut Marko. Bonnier's Lola was completely destroyed, debris from the car were all around the trees. Joakim Bonnier was killed upon impact.





Jim Clark's fatal accident.
Jim Clark's death during a F2 race in Hockenheim in 1968. R.I.P. Jimmy!





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