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Gordon Smiley's crash in a modern Indy car


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#51 Flat Black

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 17:42

Mpea3,

I rather came upon this site out of the blue, and I'm finding it a fascinating place. The knowledge of the posters is amazing and the discussion is spirited. I think I'm gonna like it around here, and I hope to stick around for some time.

As to my independent sources, they are a cousin of mine who knew Gordon, a poster on this site who actually raced with him, and a couple of miscellaneous sites on the Web. (TwinWindow's post also seems to corroborate.) All in all, I've seen and heard enough about Smiley's racing style at Indy to convince me that he not only pushed the envelope, he blasted the damned thing open. A dangerous thing in those days, if not necessarily now.

PS--I'll check the Thompson/McDonald thread and draw my own conclusions about the Sears/Allstate Special. I'm prepared to have my opinion on the topic changed if the facts dictate a change. But the facts will have to be pretty convincing.

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#52 McGuire

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 18:21

I don't see how it is necessary or productive to characterize Smiley in any way to understand the cause of the accident. He made an obvious and common mistake that is clearly evident in the video footage. Whether he was a charger or a stroker he still made the same mistake.

If people want to understand Gordon Smiley better as a driver or a man they may delve further into his personality, but as for the cause of this accident on this day, all that is neither here nor there.

#53 Jim Thurman

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 18:43

Nice to see Twinny add his comments :up:

Just as a veteran observer, I can vouch for the "looseness" of Smiley's car. I had not seen anything like that at IMS. In addition, I recall an interview with Mario Andretti, Rick Mears and Al Unser the week after where the host asked about Smiley's accident and Mario said "We couldn't get over how loose he had that car..." and added "Everyone was talking about it, did you see how loose Smiley's car is?". Unser and Mears agreed and added their own comments about Smiley's set-up. The host seemed shocked that the drivers were so matter of fact about it. He later became almost apoplectic after suggesting the speeds were too high, only to have Mears smilingly reply "Going fast has never been the problem, it's the stopping that sometimes is." with Mario and Al erupting in laughter.

I think the "lack of experience" part gets perpetuated from U.S. mainstream media accounts, which were putridly awful in the aftermath of Smiley's accident with screams for racing to be banned amid brutally inaccurate, mean-spirited, poorly informed rants...something that happens anytime there is a fatality at Indianapolis.

David, no problem at all. I thought of Smiley as "a Texan" for years myself. It hasn't been too many years ago I found out about his Omaha roots. So many drivers have relocated in pursuit of a racing career, it becomes difficult to figure where they actually were from!

#54 john aston

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 19:12

I am ashamed to admit that I watched the Youtube footage.It is utterly horrific and I will not watch it again.As for the debate..well ..he made a mistake..which is what all racers do from time to time.The consequence is what makes the mistake subject to forensic discussion but I am far from convinced the debate is worthwhile.

#55 RStock

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 21:23

I've seen a still photo of the Gordon Smiley crash just 1000ths of a second after initial impact , and you can see the steering wheel flying thru the air a good 15 to 20 feet above the wreck , and it appears to be bent . That tells me the impact was such that is rarely seen , even at Indy .

Speed , angle of impact and possibly car construction all come into play and Gordon was caught in a perfect storm . 10 years later Jovy Marcelo was killed in practice in a rather innocent looking crash when compared to Gordons , yet the results were the same , even though the crash wasn't as vicious looking .

Though there is no doubt soft walls and the hans device among other things have made it safer , but I'd say there's no way of knowing for sure if it would be survivable today . In auto racing it can never be certain that speed hasn't surpassed safety , until it happens , and sometimes that's to late .

#56 McGuire

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 22:22

Originally posted by Flat Black

As for Thompson's machine, my research has indicated, without counterargument (until you showed up), that the car was fundamentally dangerous. Even more so than a typical Indy Car of the time.


If the car was so bad, how was Dave moving up through the field when he crashed? How did his teammate keep off the walls until he dropped out with a mechanical failure? If MacDonald had been a few mph slower or had taken a more conventional line through T4, he would have made it easily. The car didn't do anything unusual; he lost it in a long, lazy spin off the corner; classic corner exit oversteer. Whatever problems the car had, they don't really speak to the spin that produced the crash. If the car was "fundamentally dangerous," how did it make it through the previous seven corners successfully? What does that description even mean when we get right down to it?

I'm not saying the car was a dreamboat. Its handling problems through the month of May are well documented. However, we can also see that the driver was pushing hard on a full fuel load, and tried to enter low and late-apex or double-apex T4 to get around another car. It didn't work. It wasn't even a particularly unusual accident. The unusual part was what happened next -- the horrific fire.

#57 David M. Kane

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 23:34

Is it really true that the actual race was the first time the car was on full tanks, or did I misunderstand the post? If so, IMO that in itself was a HUGE mistake and a HUGE gamble, sounds like Mickey Thompson from what I understand of the man, he was a big risk taker his whole life and many, many times his gambles paid off but not that particular day.

#58 EcosseF1

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 00:49

Originally posted by fines

And as for the Clark quote, which you have mentioned and reinforced in your last post, it is almost certainly a fake since there are no witnesses for it and it is very much out of character for the Scotsman.


Does anyone know where the Clark quote originated from? I thought it was in Andrew Ferguson's book but I just checked my copy and it's not. I wouldn't say it was out of character from everything I've learned about Jimmy though.

#59 McGuire

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 01:56

Originally posted by David M. Kane
Is it really true that the actual race was the first time the car was on full tanks, or did I misunderstand the post? If so, IMO that in itself was a HUGE mistake and a HUGE gamble, sounds like Mickey Thompson from what I understand of the man, he was a big risk taker his whole life and many, many times his gambles paid off but not that paar day.


I don't know. I seem to recall that Thompson refuted the charge that the car never practiced on a full fuel load, but I don't remember where I read it so I can't cite my source. I believe it is in the same interview in which he insists the car had only one fuel tank. And as we know, that was the truth.

It would seem to me that if MacDonald had never run the car on a full fuel load, that would call for holding back in the early laps and feeling the car out. Which is not what MacDonald did of course. He stood on it. So either MacDonald had indeed tested the car on full fuel, or he did not exercise very much discretion.

Mickey Thompson was indeed a risk taker, and he was a gambler -- literally. He and his wife won the grub stake to start his speed equipment company on the gaming tables in Nevada.

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#60 Fiorentina 1

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 02:31

Look at the Kubica's accident at Montreal last year. In 82 he would have been killed, no doubt.

So, to answer your question; with safer barrier, I believe a driver would survive the same shunt.

#61 Flat Black

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 04:04

Well, I've "only" made it to page 11 of the Sears/Allstate thread, and so far I've seen nothing to convince me that MacDonald's car was anything but a borderline death trap. The atrocious handling was evident to virtually everybody with eyes to see, there is every possibility that the car was never tested with a full load of benzine, and it is also entirely possible that a right-side bladder--if not a metal tank--was employed specifically for the race (it would have melted in the flame, and seems the only plausible explanation for the right-side explosion directly upon impact).

Now was MacDonald pushing too hard (to quote a song by The Seeds)? Absolutely. The crash was a combination of driver error and a ghastly beast of a car.

Do I blame MacDonald and Thompson for anything? Not particularly. In fact, I admire the courage of the olde tyme racers far more than the timorous, mincing, hyper-safety conscious approach that obtains today. Racing of old had the tang of danger that is largely vanished today. And that made the sport far more interesting than the current variant. Stirling Moss said it best (and I paraphrase): "Do people insist that safety nets surround the mountain when they climb it? Of course not. Race car driving is supposed to be dangerous. That is part of the challenge and the allure."

PS--The fact that MacDonald was moving rapidly up through the pack does not prove that the car was safe; it proves that it--and the driver--were fast.

PPS--What would have happened to Eddie Johnson had his fuel pump not crapped out? We'll never know. But the fact that every one of Thompson's entries crashed during practice in the Month of May hardly augured well for him, and from what I've read, Johnson was not terribly enthusiastic to jump back in the saddle after the pump was replaced, which it could have been.

#62 Buford

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 06:54

Originally posted by Cirrus
I seem to recall Buford saying in an earlier thread, that Gordon Smiley's body was lying on the track, looking completely unharmed after the accident.

Originally posted by Jack-the-Lad
I could be wrong, but I'm almost certain that poor Gordon's body was still in the car (I do not wish to view the video to confirm this). I spoke to one of the first medical workers who arrived at the crash scene. His description was quite disturbing. Fortunately for Gordon it was over in a split second.
Jack.


Wait - I never said "Gordon Smiley's body was lying on the track, looking completely unharmed after the accident." because I know that was not the case. I have the pictures I suppose people would scream if I posted here. I do think I said on this forum at some point - I know it did on Speednet years ago when I was arguing with some Lemming fool about that very point he was contending that the body looked unharmed - what a rescue worker told me at Milwaukee the next weekend...

"We were scraping his brains off the track for 10 minutes."

Something I believed when he told me but I was attacked for relating what he told me as being hyperbole. Now Dr Olvey has confirmed just that, brain matter was spread all along the track. Fact is Smiley's body was flattened and broken like a rag doll and you can see in the video his upper torso flops over into the fetal position the end of the crash motion of the pieces of the chassis his legs were attached to. What has not true was his body was dissected or torn part into pieces. He was all in one piece, minus the parts Dr Olvy described.

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I could post the photos after that but I would have to have a ruling from the power structure whether or not that would be considered appropriate. It would answer the questions raised in this thread. It is true the steering wheel and his helmet flew high away from the wreckage at the moment of impact right after the above picture.

Also the Piquet crash photo was mentioned earlier in this thread here it is.

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#63 Jerome

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 07:18

Well Buford, that is an amazing picture of Piquets crash. Something I think that every aspiring racedriver should see. It is a truely gruesome reminder of how dangerous racing can be... without being gory.

#64 fines

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 09:58

Originally posted by EcosseF1


Does anyone know where the Clark quote originated from? I thought it was in Andrew Ferguson's book but I just checked my copy and it's not. I wouldn't say it was out of character from everything I've learned about Jimmy though.

Perhaps there is a misunderstanding here. The way I see it, if Clark had observed erratic handling on a competitor's car, he would have tried to help the driver get around it, giving advice. He was certainly smart enough to know that telling a rookie driver "to just walk away" would result in exactly nothing happening. Try imagining yourself in that situation, you have just fulfilled a (life) long ambition and garnered a ride at Indy, and now a veteran driver comes along and tells you to quit! Do you?

In my opinion, that quote is something a fellow driver would say to intimidate a novice - totally out of character for Clark! For starters, I don't think he would have thought that MacDonald would have posed a threat to his ambitions of winning the 500, and even if so, he is more likely to have seen it as a welcome challenge. I'm sure you will agree.

There still remains the possibility that Clark would have invented the quote himself after the accident, since we have seen that all sorts of "strange" behaviour resulted from the traumatic experience, especially with the drivers involved in the race, but then of course the quote would be as worthless as all the other post-accident ramblings. But still, I don't see Clark doing that, as he strikes me as a particularly thoughtful and balanced person, not given much to public "mind striptease" - I could be wrong, though.

#65 EcosseF1

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 13:46

Originally posted by fines

In my opinion, that quote is something a fellow driver would say to intimidate a novice - totally out of character for Clark! For starters, I don't think he would have thought that MacDonald would have posed a threat to his ambitions of winning the 500, and even if so, he is more likely to have seen it as a welcome challenge. I'm sure you will agree.

There still remains the possibility that Clark would have invented the quote himself after the accident, since we have seen that all sorts of "strange" behaviour resulted from the traumatic experience, especially with the drivers involved in the race, but then of course the quote would be as worthless as all the other post-accident ramblings. But still, I don't see Clark doing that, as he strikes me as a particularly thoughtful and balanced person, not given much to public "mind striptease" - I could be wrong, though.


I'm sure anything Clark said to MacDonald was intended towards helping a rookie. Given that Clark would nearly always drive around a problem himself it does seem unlikely he would say that unless he'd seen enough while following the car to be genuinely concerned for MacDonald's safety.

#66 McGuire

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 14:21

Personally, I am more interested in learning if Clark actually said it. To determine that I would need to see the original source of this quote, which would have to be first-hand: someone who was there and actually heard Clark say those words to MacDonald.

At this point nothing less will do. I have taken the purported statement as fact and repeated it myself, so it is quite possible that others have as well. The remarkable thing about this event is how much of the available info has proven to be totally wrong.

#67 Flat Black

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 14:37

It's impossible to prove Clark didn't make the statement to MacDonald. And that being the case, I give the benefit of the doubt to the person--whoever that may have been--who reported the remark.

PS--Just finished the Sears/Allstate thread. What a bloody bananza of info! Wow. I'm impressed. Much of the discussion, of course, revolved around the fuel cell conundrum. More specifically, was there a bladder, even a small one on the right side of the car? And if not, why did the car burst into flame immediately upon contact with the inside wall? The best explanation I saw was that there was only one fuel cell, that it was on the left side, and that the smashed fuel and oil pumps disgorged just enough aerated fluid to ignite and then touch off the contents of the fuel tank, which ruptured totally because of the inertia.

Question, though: If topped off fuel tanks are highly unlikely to explode, why was there such a fireball when Sachs plowed into MacDonald? Shouldn't Sachs' car have burst into flame in the same manner as MacDonalds'?

#68 McGuire

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 16:37

Originally posted by Flat Black
It's impossible to prove Clark didn't make the statement to MacDonald. And that being the case, I give the benefit of the doubt to the person--whoever that may have been--who reported the remark.


Couldn't disagree more. If the Mickey Thompson thread proves anything, it's that nothing can be given the benefit of the doubt or accepted at face value where the MacDonald-Sachs crash is concerned. Most of the accounts are significantly wrong and many of the so-called "facts" are simply made up. Any breakthroughs in the thread arose from refusing to take "common knowledge" at face value. While the Clark quote may well be authentic, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if it is yet another fabrication.

So if in going over the material we can't find an original source for the Clark quote, I have no choice but to dismiss it. If someone didn't hear it in person, that means someone else made it up later. Here is a popular quote of recent years attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” It's a colorful observation and has all sorts of applications, the only trouble being he never said it.

#69 Buford

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 16:48

I wish I could remember where I first heard the Clark story but it was in the time frame close to the race. Not anytime recently and I am thinking it was attributed to Masten Gregory. That he had related the story but I'm not 100% sure of that anymore because too much time has passed. I did however read it somewhere and the quote is identical to the one others have quoted so it was definitely part of the information exchange at the time. True as we have seen much of what we all had thought especially about the amount of fuel involved was probably wrong. Still I have always believed this story and still do but I admit I don't remember where I first heard it.

#70 Flat Black

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 22:00

Sorry, McGuire, but I just cannot muster your level of cynicism. Until disproven, the quote still stands in my mind. I don't just assume everybody is a liar or fabricator.

PS--The only thing that the Sears/Allstate thread "disproved" is that MacDonald's car carried an inordinate amount of fuel. And I use the term disproved advisedly. The value of the thread is the wealth of primary source data--visual and textual--adduced and the stimulating hypotheses put forward by various members. If I were to write a chapter on the MacDonald/Sachs crash for a book on fatalaties at The Speedway, that thread is where I would commence research.

#71 Ray Bell

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 22:43

While the Clark quote might be open to question, Gregory's warning to Brabham surely isn't?

Jack has told me personally, and it's in books published since, that Gregory warned him about the car, to watch it and see if it behaved in a certain fashion. Jack says he saw this and 'almost pushed the brake pedal through the bulkhead'.

Surely that is an indication that the car was considered unsafe before the race?

#72 David M. Kane

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 22:43

McGuire let's try this, if Jim Clark didn't say it, he should have!

Buford how did Piquet survive that crash! Did he have at least a concussion?

#73 Twin Window

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 22:52

Originally posted by David M. Kane

...how did Piquet survive that crash!

I could describe the consequences of that shunt to you, but someone somewhere might be eating. Not a pleasant tale, which saw him endure a lengthy rehab.

He was, however, extremely fortunate to survive into the long-term with all his limbs intact...

(NB I'm sure I'm not the only one who's privy to those details, so I'd ask those others who are not to relate them here as they're irrelevant. Thanks)

#74 McGuire

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 22:59

Originally posted by David M. Kane
McGuire let's try this, if Jim Clark didn't say it, he should have!


That's the problem with the quote. It's too good. We should believe the quote if there is some evidence that Clark actually said it, not because it fits what we would like to have happened.

#75 Paul Taylor

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 23:03

Piquet did a lot of damage to his ankles, although I don't know the exact medical details.

#76 David M. Kane

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 23:10

McGuire I'm going to call Sally Stokes Swart tomorrow and ask her if Jim ever discussed the accident with her.

Twin Window I know Nelson was in Methodist hospital in Indy for something like six months before he fit enough to leave and they found him highly entertaining.

#77 Buford

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 23:15

Originally posted by David M. Kane
McGuire let's try this, if Jim Clark didn't say it, he should have!

Buford how did Piquet survive that crash! Did he have at least a concussion?


His legs were totally crushed as were several other drivers of that era but Dr. Trammell at Methodist Hospital was a specialist in gluing the little pieces back together and getting them all walking again. Of course they were never the same again but they walk.

#78 McGuire

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 23:18

Originally posted by Flat Black
Sorry, McGuire, but I just cannot muster your level of cynicism. Until disproven, the quote still stands in my mind. I don't just assume everybody is a liar or fabricator.

PS--The only thing that the Sears/Allstate thread "disproved" is that MacDonald's car carried an inordinate amount of fuel. And I use the term disproved advisedly. The value of the thread is the wealth of primary source data--visual and textual--adduced and the stimulating hypotheses put forward by various members. If I were to write a chapter on the MacDonald/Sachs crash for a book on fatalaties at The Speedway, that thread is where I would commence research.


No, every hare-brained theory under the sun has been presented to explain the crash -- including the truly ridiculous Motor Trend story for example. Was the writer lying or fabricating his version? I don't know that he didn't believe what he wrote with all his heart. But I do know this: His description of the event is totally mistaken. Likewise, the Clark quote could have been repeated by any number of people who believed in its veracity, with no way of knowing if he actually said it.

How do we separate the wheat from the chaff? By employing some standards of proof to the evidence in hand. In historical research, primary sources take priority over secondary sources and physical evidence takes priority over the opinions of witnesses. That is how we arrived at the proper conclusion that the car carried one fuel tank of 45 gallons rather than two tanks of 90 to 100 gallons, despite the claims of everyone from Johnny Rutherford to Dan Gurney to Dave Davis Jr swearing to the latter. Were they lying or fabricating? No. They were simply mistaken.

If we have an original source for the Clark quote, then we have something. If not, we have another gray area. I am for setting all gray areas off to one side and concentrating first on what we know beyond dispute. Then we are building an explanation on a foundation of facts rather than on gray areas.

#79 Flat Black

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 23:32

With all due respect, McGuire, nobody but nobody accepted the Motor Trend explanation or even its description as accurate. That was a shoddy piece of journalism that was cast by the wayside long ago. When the Sears/Allstate thread began, how many posters believed that MacDonald was ejected from the car rather than pinned in it? Less than 1%, I'd lay.

As regards Clark's statement, the only primary source would be a direct quote from the Late, Great Jim himself appearing on audio or in an authoritative textual source such as the NYTimes back when it was a respectable paper. Failing that, we make do with what we've got. You can choose to believe the remark or not, but no historian worth his ink would dismiss the statement just because an Internet thread cast grave doubt on the fuel capacity of MacDonald's care. The lines of causation between the two historical problems are quite separate. I.e., just because MacDonald carried 44 gallons of petrol rather than 75 does not mean that Jim Clark did not advise MacDonald away from Thompson's motorized casket.

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#80 Buford

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 23:38

Without going back and looking how did we start talking about the 1964 Indy wreck again on a second thread when this one was originally about Gordon Smiley and whether he could have survived in a modern car?

#81 Jack-the-Lad

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 00:29

Originally posted by Buford
Without going back and looking how did we start talking about the 1964 Indy wreck again on a second thread when this one was originally about Gordon Smiley and whether he could have survived in a modern car?


Thread creep?

Jack

#82 McGuire

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 02:15

Originally posted by Flat Black

As regards Clark's statement, the only primary source would be a direct quote from the Late, Great Jim himself appearing on audio or in an authoritative textual source such as the NYTimes back when it was a respectable paper. Failing that, we make do with what we've got. You can choose to believe the remark or not, but no historian worth his ink would dismiss the statement just because an Internet thread cast grave doubt on the fuel capacity of MacDonald's care. The lines of causation between the two historical problems are quite separate. I.e., just because MacDonald carried 44 gallons of petrol rather than 75 does not mean that Jim Clark did not advise MacDonald away from Thompson's motorized casket.


I haven't dismissed the Clark quote at all. But neither do I accept it at face value at this moment, since all the quotations are second hand so far. I don't need the NYT; any credible primary source will do.

And at any rate, while it adds an interesting piece to the puzzle, this quote does not speak directly to the Lap 2 crash. The thing is we don't need to make suppositions or speculations about a crash we never saw. We have video and it shows that MacDonald's car did not do anything strange or even the least bit unusual. Classic corner exit oversteer, followed by a long, lazy spin to the inside. If MacDonald had taken a more conventional line or had been traveling a bit slower he would have made the corner easily.

I agree with Buford that all future discussion on this topic should be continued on the appropriate thread.

#83 RStock

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 02:57

Originally posted by Twin Window
I could describe the consequences of that shunt to you, but someone somewhere might be eating. Not a pleasant tale, which saw him endure a lengthy rehab.

He was, however, extremely fortunate to survive into the long-term with all his limbs intact...

(NB I'm sure I'm not the only one who's privy to those details, so I'd ask those others who are not to relate them here as they're irrelevant. Thanks)


This is all very reminisent of David Purleys crash at Silverstone . Every time I see a photo of that car , I don't know how he survived .

#84 Henri Greuter

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 07:16

Originally posted by Buford
Without going back and looking how did we start talking about the 1964 Indy wreck again on a second thread when this one was originally about Gordon Smiley and whether he could have survived in a modern car?



My fault, I brought up the fact that Smiley was told to bedriving over his head before having his accident already and pointed out that he had mere Indy experience than Dave MacDonald who was kind of accused of the same in his rookie year.

I am sorry for that if it derailed the thread too much. But my feelings were that Smiley was blamed for inexperience, yet he had experience. That was what I wanted to point out.

Other than that, I think that 1964 McDonald&Sachs and Smiley tragedies being two of the three most gruesome accidents ever seen at Indy.


Henri

#85 Flat Black

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 14:30

I'd imagine thread creep--rather a subjective thing--occurs in around 75% of all threads that go over 50 posts. Digression is a natural consequence of involved conversation.

#86 jimclark

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 14:35

Originally posted by Flat Black
I'd imagine thread creep--rather a subjective thing--occurs in around 75% of all threads that go over 50 posts. Digression is a natural consequence of involved conversation.



Huh???

:D :D :D

Oh, and, Henri - "Other than that, I think that 1964 McDonald&Sachs and Smiley tragedies being two of the three most gruesome accidents ever seen at Indy."

Which do you consider the other? I was devastated by Swede's (Savage) in '73. :(

#87 Cynic2

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 15:00

And as this thread has crept into Indy 500 accidents....

Dr Steve Olvey revealed in his book that Swede Savage didn't die from his injuries, rather from massive liver failure induced by tainted blood used in a transfusion. The blood caused a form of Hepatitis, which was fatal to a number of patients, not just Savage; a large class-action lawsuit followed.

Cynic

#88 Henri Greuter

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 15:08

Originally posted by jimclark



Huh???

:D :D :D

Oh, and, Henri - "Other than that, I think that 1964 McDonald&Sachs and Smiley tragedies being two of the three most gruesome accidents ever seen at Indy."

Which do you consider the other? I was devastated by Swede's (Savage) in '73. :(



Savage is indeed one of my choises for third, the other option would be Ongais in 1981.

But I could so easily nominate Pollard in '73, Patrick Bedard in '84 or even Duke Nalon in 1949 or Pat O'Connor in 1958 for being gruesome to watch as well.
I still don't understand how the Speedway itselfs show so many times pictures of the Fox one in '95, He survived but that wone was much worse to watch than Scott Goodyear one year later....


As for people who were shocked to see Smiley on YouTube: as far as I could see, that was the footage of which Public TV at Indy deemed it was acceptable to show it in the 6 o clock news that same evening.
And if my memory is correct, On the IMS DVD decade disk about the 80's, I haven't watched that DVD for a while but I believe that even IMS felt it OK to include footage of the accident on that DVD.

Another one of which you better not look for details is not an Indy crash but it was CART; Jim Hickman at Milwaukie, also in 1982. From what I've understood that was an incident similar to the one Smiley had and alos in the aftermath was much "like Smiley".
As already confirmed, never go after Renna details.


henri

#89 jimclark

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 15:21

I never saw the Pollard incident...just heard about it on the radio right after it happened and read about it. :( :( :(

'Was extra troubling as he had given this 14 year old 10 minutes of his time at Trenton in fall of '68 to discuss the "stereo failure" (my words) of the Lotus turbines ay Indy that year.

#90 fines

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 16:20

Thread creep or not, this has been posted here so I will answer it here:

Originally posted by Ray Bell
While the Clark quote might be open to question, Gregory's warning to Brabham surely isn't?

Jack has told me personally, and it's in books published since, that Gregory warned him about the car, to watch it and see if it behaved in a certain fashion. Jack says he saw this and 'almost pushed the brake pedal through the bulkhead'.

Surely that is an indication that the car was considered unsafe before the race?

If we could trace this warning back to the time "before the race", then yes, certainly! Unfortunately, as I had already mentioned in the other thread, there are a number of very strong arguments pointing to its origin in the aftermath of the accident, not least the fact that Gregory himself got back into the car trying to qualify it.

The fact that Brabham has told his story many times and with unshaken confidence in its accuracy is not a reflection on its absolute truth, just the "truth" of his memories. Traumata work that way, they modify memories, and they do it well. It doesn't actually need a trauma to do that, but that's not the point here. There's no doubt, traumata are very efficient memory modifiers!

#91 fines

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 16:48

Originally posted by Flat Black
As regards Clark's statement, the only primary source would be a direct quote from the Late, Great Jim himself appearing on audio or in an authoritative textual source such as the NYTimes back when it was a respectable paper. Failing that, we make do with what we've got. You can choose to believe the remark or not, but no historian worth his ink would dismiss the statement just because an Internet thread cast grave doubt on the fuel capacity of MacDonald's care. The lines of causation between the two historical problems are quite separate. I.e., just because MacDonald carried 44 gallons of petrol rather than 75 does not mean that Jim Clark did not advise MacDonald away from Thompson's motorized casket.

I couldn't disagree more - what a convoluted and misguided post!

No "historian worth his ink" would give a dog's shit for a quote which is uncorroborated, and that has nothing whatsover to do with fuel capacity - can you forget that for a moment, or better entirely because it's a dead horse!

Back to the Clark quote: we haven't found any evidence so far that suggests that the Thompson was an excessively dangerous car, yet we have a multitude of post-accident quotes saying so. That leaves us basically with two options, a) "nobody thought so before the accident", or b) "we just haven't found a quote yet". Of course, a scenario c) "nobody said so even if they thought the car was dangerous" is also possible, but it doesn't help us in any way. If we can't find a b) quote, then we are forced to accept a), that's the way I see it.

Your words of the "motorized casket" show that you haven't yet asked yourself the cardinal question in rhetorics, "What if I'm wrong?" No offense, but in my experience that question saves a lot of egg on face! For 44 years now, people have tried to explain away this accident as something very unusual, to make themselves believe it couldn't possibly happen again. The easiest way to do this was to blame the car, and with it Mickey Thompson has been given the rap. It's high time this nonsense stops! :evil:

#92 fines

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 16:59

Oh, and back to the thread... :o

Originally posted by Henri Greuter
Other than that, I think that 1964 McDonald&Sachs and Smiley tragedies being two of the three most gruesome accidents ever seen at Indy.

No offense meant, but your choices are typically "media era"... or did you mean "ever seen by me at Indy"?;)

I imagine the Sampson/Roberts/Miller accident of 1939 should really rank very high, or the pit accident of the Model A Duesenberg, was it 1937? Also, although relatively harmless in its outcome, what about the flaming Norm Batten Miller in 1927? That could've been REALLY BAD! :(

#93 Flat Black

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 17:52

Oh puhleeze, fines. Get off your high horse.

Guys like you have to resort to round about explanations and cockeyed theories to dispense with inconvenient evidence. I'm sure you're a dyed-in-the-wool believer in false consciousness as well. Particularly when that consciousness is at loggerheads with how you feel the subject class should think.

The point is, numerous independent sources went on record--before or after the crash; it really doesn't matter too much--stating that they thought the MacDonald car was dangerous. Moreover, all three of Thompson's entries crashed in the Month of May. Not a record to inspire confidence. No?

The obvious explanation for the accident is that an inexperienced, overzealous driver, caught up in the heat of the moment and driving a beast of a car--lost it. And with tragic results. If I were to quantify--and I am--I would put it at 60% driver error and 40% poor engineering.

PS--Good historians use uncorroborated quotes all the time. For certain periods and areas in history, you often don't have much more with which to work. You use the sources that are available to you and weight them according to likely veracity. Elementery historical procedure, my dear fines.

#94 Flat Black

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 17:55

In terms of sheer horror, the George Bailey crash in 1940 must surely rank as one of Indy's very worst. We're probably lucky that there is no photographic evidence of that one.

#95 Paul Taylor

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 18:26

Originally posted by Flat Black
In terms of sheer horror, the George Bailey crash in 1940 must surely rank as one of Indy's very worst. We're probably lucky that there is no photographic evidence of that one.


There is actually...

#96 ghinzani

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 19:02

Originally posted by Flat Black
Oh puhleeze, fines. Get off your high horse.

.


Its funny, you've not been here very long but I was already thinking the same. Although not about Fines I hasten to add.

:down:

#97 Flat Black

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 19:07

PT,

The only photography evidence of the Bailey wreck I've seen is one photo of the burned out skeleton of the poor man's car. You're privy to something other than that?

#98 FLB

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 19:08

Originally posted by Flat Black
One thing to keep in mind: Gordon was doing around 200 mph on impact.

That was the problem. He wanted to run 200 at any cost. Sullivan had just qualified at 195.XXX. The track was slow when he went out. Smiley crashed while Sullivan was being interviewed after his run.

Smiley was on his second warm-up lap when he crashed. In the Hungness 1982 book, there's an anonymous quote of a photographer who was in Turn 2. The quote: 'I don't think he'll make it back again...' Bob Lazier was his team mate and the accident unnerved him so much that he called it quits right there and then.

There are a couple of modern incidents where cars hit the wall at right angles (Piquet, Fox, Jeff Andretti in 1992, etc.), but few where the car essentially climbed and grabbed into the catch fencing above the wall. The two examples I think of are Renna and Zampedri. I won't go into Renna's details (Henri, don't speak to the Dallara guys either...), but Zampedri's front was literally torn apart by the fencing. He was lucky that his impact was basically perpendicular to the fencing and not virtually parallel like Smiley's. You can see in the Hungness sequence that Smiley's car actually rolled on the fencing, vertical to the track.

#99 Flat Black

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 19:14

Good points, FLB.

One other difference between Smiley and Piquet is that while there was actually a bit of rotation with Piquet's car upon impact, Smiley literally rocketed straight into the wall. His impact was truly head-on, while Piquet's was a bubble off of that. Smiley's hit was the "perfect storm" of a crash, to belabor an already overused metaphor.

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#100 Buford

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 20:14

Not the same at all - Piquet did a full spin before impact