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Crashes at the start - a thing of the present?


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#1 Jerome

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 13:54

Recently, I've been watching a lot of F1 video's on video.google and You Tube. And it striked me that from the eighties on, crashes at the start occur more and more frequently. While I sure do remember the enormous pile up of Brands Hatch in 1974 (?) (Scheckter the culprit?), and the enormous crash in Monza in 1978 that took poor old Ronnie's life, crashes at the start seemed rare. And I can't remember and haven't found startline crashes before 1970. The starts I've seen look rather... carefull.

So, any old hands here can tell me if startingline crashes happened just as frequent as today?

Were drivers more carefull then, or was the power/grip ratio just so it was impossible to get off the line that quick to crash into eachother in a big way?

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#2 ensign14

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 14:09

There were others in the past but not as serious, just a couple of cars taken out. Then again, in an era where it was possible to overtake and there was not half-a-mile difference between pole and 14th, getting off to a stormer of a start was not so vital in the grand scheme.

#3 Terry Walker

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 14:11

The grids have more cars now, their accelleration is far greater that it was 10-20 years and more ago, and they are more closely matched, so there's a lot more cars trying to get around that first corner all at the same time.

At least, that's my gut feeling.

#4 Jerome

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 14:14

Also my gutfeeling. But perhaps Jacky Stewart (and Buford perhaps!) would say it is especially a matter of attitude of the drivers at the start.

#5 Rosemayer

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 14:23

The drivers back then had more respect as a crash could result in being trapped in a burning car also without wings and downforce overtaking was much easier.

#6 Ross Stonefeld

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 14:24

Though now with everyone having identical starts thanks to launch control, and more importantly (imo) a reluctance to use the red flag; we have even fewer desperate lunges on the first turn of the first lap.

#7 Jerome

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 15:51

Do some old... I mean experienced Forummers know of big startaccidents in before 1970?

#8 David M. Kane

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 16:30

It might just be a talent issue...

#9 E.B.

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 16:33

Originally posted by David M. Kane
It might just be a talent issue...


I dunno, I thought the field that took the start at Indy '66 was one of the greatest 500 lineups ever.

#10 ensign14

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 16:33

Originally posted by Jerome.Inen
Do some old... I mean experienced Forummers know of big startaccidents in before 1970?

Indy 1966?

#11 James Page

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 16:38

A lot of it might stem from the governing body's reluctance to stamp on Schumacher's outrageous 'chops' off the line. Then everyone started doing the same thing. Mix that with the fact that, even with launch control, the run to the first corner presents the best overtaking opportunity of the afternoon, and accidents will happen…

#12 Rosemayer

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 16:59

1962 Monaco GP

www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr104.html

#13 mariner

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 17:47

Way back when in the 1950's I seem to recall that many GP grids were four cars abreast. That plus the lower acceleration rates would logically result in less accidents. Also I agree that with so few overtaking chances today people are going to be more desperate at the start.

Speaking of overtaking the best idea I ever read on how to slow down GP cars and improve overtaking came from Keith Duckworth who suggested small speed bumps of a fixed height. This would at one stroke, and at virtually no cost, force suspensions to move again and thus degrade ground effects significantly. Max's and Bernie's two big problems solved at zero cost!


A typically logical Keith Duckworth solution - I wonder why Max spends his time coming up with new wing designs etc. instead?

#14 bigears

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 18:52

This is a complete list of accidents involving more than 2 cars in the first lap I have made from 1979-2006 (from 1997-2006, it might be incomplete though)

1979 - Buenos Aires and Long Beach

1980 - Long Beach, Monaco and Montreal

1981 - Long Beach, Jacarapagua, Monaco, Zolder and Zandvoort

1982 - Zolder, Montreal, Brands Hatch, Osterreichring and Monza

1983 - Monaco and Osterreichring

1984 - Imola, Monaco, Detroit, Brands Hatch and Nurburgring

1985 - Monaco, Silverstone and Kyalami

1986 - Jerez and Brands Hatch

1987 - Osterreichring, Spa and Estoril

1988 - Estoril

1989 - Jacarapagua and Paul Ricard

1990 - Monaco, Spa and Suzuka

1991 -

1992 - Mexico, Magny Cours, Hungaroring and Adelaide

1993 - Interlagos, Donington, Monza and Adelaide

1994 - Ti-Aida, Imola, Monaco, Hockenheim, Hungaroring and Monza

1995 - Buenos Aires, Monaco, Monza and Estoril

1996 - Melbourne, Barcelona, Monaco and Spa

1997 - Melbourne, Interlagos, Buenos Aires, Nurburgring and Hockenheim

1998 - Montreal, A1 Ring and Spa

1999 - Imola, Montreal, Hockenheim and Nurburgring

2000 - A1 Ring, Nurburgring, Monza, Hockenheim and Sepang

2001 - Sepang, Silverstone, Hockenheim and Monza

2002 - Melbourne and Sepang

2003 - Sepang, Barcelona and Hockenheim

2004 - Indianapolis and Spa

2005 - Interlagos

2006 - Melbourne, Imola and Interlagos,

#15 Jerome

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 19:11

Wow bigears

Thanx.

And yeah, I knew about Indy 1966. But that was a rolling start, wasn't it? And that's just the thing. Everytime I watch a standing start my heart goes pitterpatter. Because in these days it is the most dangerous moment of the race. While in the fifties, and sixties, apparently...

small speed bumps

In the car or on the track? ;) Because in the car putting mandatory bumps would also really put the springs back in the car.

J.

#16 Jerome

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 19:15

Come to think of it:

The staggered grid and the two cars a line were initiated because of the perceived difference of speed between fast cars (pole sitters and close to it) and slow cars (the backmarkers). The problem nowadays is that a Spyker is about 0.10 slower on the first fifty meters than a Ferrari. So the speeddifference is not not much of a factor. So what would be a good idea: One car a line? Or four?

(Think about it. Four cars that are close in speed know where they are in relationship to eachother. Start accidents always happen because someone turns in and somebody else thought he was not going to turn in. Or hoping he wouldn't.)

#17 Richard Jenkins

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 21:51

Originally posted by Jerome.Inen
Do some old... I mean experienced Forummers know of big startaccidents in before 1970?


Not at the start, but on the first lap...... Monaco 1950.

Those amateurs of the old days..... :lol: ;)

#18 Paul Taylor

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 21:56

1960 French GP - Hill stalled on the front row of the grid, Trintignant hit it and Bianchi and Halford were involved as well.

1976 South African GP - Ian Scheckter decides to go up the inside of Leclere at Turn 1 on the first lap and they touch. Scheckter went off track towards the wall and retired on the spot, but Leclere just spun and managed to finish the race in 13th.

#19 giacomo

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 22:06

Originally posted by David M. Kane
It might just be a talent issue...

Rather a matter of discipline.

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#20 David M. Kane

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 22:44

Giacomo:

You are correct, Daly's accident at Monaco is a perfect example of that which you speak.

#21 Kvadrat

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 02:57

The earliest start crash I can recall was in Monaco in 1962.

In earlier races films you often can see stalled or slow starting cars and how other cars from the back of the grid avoid them. That was possible, I think, because speed in that time was very low.

#22 Barry Boor

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 08:11

If you try to make a racing start from the middle of the grid in Grand Prix Legends, driving from the cockpit view, you would know how difficult it is to get cleanly away without bumping anyone. Drive from the 'chase' view and it becomes much easier.

This raises another factor which I don't think has been mentioned. The amount of lateral vision a modern driver has. They sit so low in the cars that their perception of things around them cannot be anywhere near what it would have been in the 50s or even the 60s in some cars. This factor, combined with the immense acceleration that modern cars have, will inevitably mean that 2 drivers will occasionally both try to be on the same piece of tarmac at the same time.

Jim Clark sat very low but then he was usually away and clear of everyone within 5 seconds anyway!

Plus, of course, the width of the tyres, which effectively leaves much less space in which the move the car laterally.

In fact, I am always amazed when eveyone does make it around the first corner without a tangle.

#23 Mohican

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 08:43

Originally posted by Barry Boor

This raises another factor which I don't think has been mentioned. The amount of lateral vision a modern driver has. They sit so low in the cars that their perception of things around them cannot be anywhere near what it would have been in the 50s or even the 60s in some cars. This factor, combined with the immense acceleration that modern cars have, will inevitably mean that 2 drivers will occasionally both try to be on the same piece of tarmac at the same time.

Plus, of course, the width of the tyres, which effectively leaves much less space in which the move the car laterally.


The lack of lateral vision is certainly a factor - but on the other hand the cars are much narrower now than they were in the 70's and 80's. I remember James Hunt being disqualified from winning the 1976 Spanish GP because his McLaren M23 was wider (due to the rear tyres deflating, or so the team claimed) than the allowed 215 cms.

215 cms ? How wide is a current F1 car ? Much less than that, certainly.

#24 Peter Morley

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 09:30

Originally posted by Ross Stonefeld
we have even fewer desperate lunges on the first turn of the first lap.


That would involve overtaking and why do that when you can wait and 'pass' cars while stood still in the pits having your car serviced.

#25 sterling49

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 09:32

Originally posted by Peter Morley


That would involve overtaking and why do that when you can wait and 'pass' cars while stood still in the pits having your car serviced.




:rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl:

#26 Huw Jadvantich

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 10:28

The 1959 World Championship was virtually decided by a start line incident between Brooks and his Ferrari team mate -had Brooks not collided at the start and stopped to check for damage, he would have been in a position to be past Brabham and most likely McLaren and into the lead when Brabham was running out of fuel towards the end of the race - then we would have had a front engined car win the 1959 World Championship and perhaps the old monsters would have had a longer lease of life with the perception being perhaps that they weren't so out dated after all.
Just a theory.
Most start line or early lap accidents are not simply due to the increase in acceleration -they stem from the unexpected. it only takes one unexpected action or lack of action to cause a tumultuous chain reaction, and it doesn't really matter whether the cars are doing 70mph or 160mph.
What happens as a result of a missed gear, non start, slow getaway is completetly random.
But there is a case for the increased vision forward and peripherally in older single seaters.
A Touring car race is just as likely to have a multiple accident early in the race because the driver cannot see because of all of the car's roofs. in an older single seater it is easier to identify a slow moving 'head' or something not right up ahead for the lower grid drivers to prepare themselves for something unusual about to happen.
Modern drivers do not have that luxury being sat so low and having very limited peripheral vision.
Also I am not sure how much 'launch control' takes things out of the hands of the driver, if he is depending on a device to take him to the first corner he will not have the 'instant' response to deal with something untoward.
Its quite possible that the importance of qualifying and and lack of overtaking puts extra stresses on the drivers at the beginning of the race, particularly with the knowledge that they are , these days, particularly well protected.
Drivers pre 1974-ish were also good mates as well as rivals the relationship between outright competition and sporting gestures wss completely different. They knew in those days that there was a whole race to dice it out cleanly, and the outcome wasn't so desparatly important anyway.
These days the sporting gestures do not exist, the intimate knowledge of the other drivers doesn't exist, and the realisation of the cost of a dodgy manouvre is not something that is programmed into them.

I have a theory about road (and track) safety. It doesn't involve Hans devices and Air bags, it is a dirty great spike sticking out of the steering wheel. You'd be amazed how skillful people would become.

#27 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 11:00

Originally posted by Terry Walker
The grids have more cars now, their accelleration is far greater that it was 10-20 years and more ago, and they are more closely matched, so there's a lot more cars trying to get around that first corner all at the same time.

At least, that's my gut feeling.


Terry,Terry,Terry! The grids are bigger now? And more closely matched? I think not!

Mid 70s you still had 24 cars on the grid they were often covered by only about 3-4 seconds . It normally took over half an hour of racing for the front runners to get within sight of lapping anyone at all, even in the days of renta-drive Heskeths and Marchs

And don't forget that the grids were 2-2-2 in those days, not 1-1-1 as they are now, so the tail enders were only half the distance from the front , probabaly less. There were rather more cars trying to fit into the same space at the first corner, not less...

#28 Peter Morley

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 11:50

Originally posted by Huw Jadvantich

I have a theory about road (and track) safety. It doesn't involve Hans devices and Air bags, it is a dirty great spike sticking out of the steering wheel. You'd be amazed how skillful people would become.


I've said the very same myself - anything that encourages people to think that having an accident is OK is wrong.
All the 'safety features' that increase a car's weight making any impact that much bigger (the effect is squared rather than linear) can't be right either.

Why modern driver's are paid so much and admit (DC did) they wouldn't 'race' if they thought they could get hurt is beyond me.
If Schumacher was worth $50M or so a year how much should the really great drivers like Clark & Moss have been paid?

Given they are paid so well would it not be reasonable to see them trying to overtake other cars, even if it was a bit risky - I'm just remembering why I find modern F1 so boring, it's been a while since the last procession.

#29 Ross Stonefeld

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 12:06

Originally posted by Peter Morley


That would involve overtaking and why do that when you can wait and 'pass' cars while stood still in the pits having your car serviced.


My you're clever.

#30 Allan Lupton

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 13:49

An historical point of information for you:
When grid starts were first based on practice times, the idea was that the speed potential of the car decreased as you got futher from pole position and that included acceleration.
By and large that worked, save for the few that had trouble in practice who were further back than they should be, but as they were in a minority it still usually worked out. It was only those few that had to try to overtake, as the rest were already more or less in the order they would run (and finish).
Recently true performance potential does not reflect the grid position for all sorts of reasons, and, as has been said, with modern technology the initial step-off is similar for all. Because of that, and because of the extreme length of the grid, starting grid overtaking is required much more than in the past - hence much more unpredictable behaviour, hence more accidents.

#31 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 13:55

Originally posted by ensign14
Indy 1966?


Didn't Dan Gurney once contemplate: "Why can't the best 24 race drivers in the world drive in a straight line for half a mile?"

#32 Barry Boor

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 14:14

I think it was 33 drivers, but yes, Dan supposedly said that after the Indy '66 pile-up.

#33 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 14:58

Originally posted by Barry Boor
I think it was 33 drivers, but yes, Dan supposedly said that after the Indy '66 pile-up.


I couldnt recall if it was after Indy or a GP :p

#34 rateus

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 15:08

One other factor that hasn't been mentioned yet is the changing environment of the startline.

Looking at pictures of starts in the 50s, I can't help but wince at the large numbers of mechanics, track marshals, etc. standing right next to the track with minimal, if any, protection. Drivers back then were surely aware on some level that any accident stood a good chance of involving bystanders as well.

Does anyone know what protection the marshal killed at Monaco in '62 had?

#35 Barry Boor

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 15:29

He was standing behind knee high straw bales.

IIRC it was an errant wheel that did the damage.

#36 scags

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 19:49

The worst real life I saw was Ricardo Paleti's, in Montreal. It was even worse than usual because it was Gilles Villenue's memorial weekend. As far as the silver screen goes, you have Gino Bogese running his mechanic over in "The Racers"

#37 Rob G

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 01:34

Emil Frankl was killed in the charge into the Südkehre on the first lap of the 1934 Eifel GP. He was the only one involved, but he very nearly tangled with other cars.

#38 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 09:52

Originally posted by rateus
One other factor that hasn't been mentioned yet is the changing environment of the startline.


And also starting procedures. In the mid 70s jumping the start was open to liberal interpretation and many races began with some cars already on the move and well out of position. In most cases this was down to the bad system then being used by the starters who didn't let the whole field come to a complete halt before letting them go. This of course was pounced on by drivers who knew they could use it to advantage.The worst example was Monza 78 where only the first few cars had come to a halt and the tail enders were apparently moving at a pace when the signal was given.

In the 50s of course there was no warm-up lap so everyone sat motionless on the grid with the engines having just been fired up. In some respects this did make for less dubious starts and because the fields were often arranged 4-3-4 or 3-2-3 it meant the guys in the middle and at the back had little room for mad manouvers. There was also little distance between the front and back rows of the grid so anyone stalling was not as likely to take such a major hit as in later years. These days, frankly, its become far too spread out and that causes it's own problems with closing speeds and wild manouvering from one side of the road to the other.

#39 Huw Jadvantich

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 10:34

The length of the grids is quite a good point, as anyone who gets involved in those traffic jam incidents which seem to have no cause other than a ripple effect will know. with wide 434 grids the cars at the back are going approx the same speed and know their braking point will be in approx the same place -with a long grid the drivers beyond three rows back have no idea where their braking point is likely to be. Its a miracle they get through at all with those daft chicanes at Monza.
The similarity in vehicle performance (spec racing) also increases the likely hood of problems in this respect

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#40 Piston Broke

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 10:52

Originally posted by Mohican


The lack of lateral vision is certainly a factor - but on the other hand the cars are much narrower now than they were in the 70's and 80's. I remember James Hunt being disqualified from winning the 1976 Spanish GP because his McLaren M23 was wider (due to the rear tyres deflating, or so the team claimed) than the allowed 215 cms.

215 cms ? How wide is a current F1 car ? Much less than that, certainly.


A current F1 car (in this case a Ferrari F2007) has the following dimensions.....

Length: 4545 mm
Width: 1796 mm
Height: 959 mm
Wheelbase: 3135 mm
Front track: 1470 mm
Rear track: 1405 mm
Weight with water, lubricant and driver: 600 kg

The FIA mandated maximum width is 1800mm, reduced from 2000mm at the same time as the grooved tyres were introduced.(1998)

For the sake of accuracy the British GP Scheckter inspired multi car pile up was Silverstone 1973, actually through Woodcote at the end of lap 1. That led to a crash that eliminated I think 9 cars and resulted in Andrea de Adamich suffering a broken ankle. Subsequently McLaren were forced to rest their wild newboy for a few races, at the insistence of the other teams.

Brands 1974 was incident free at the start, although the two preceeding races that year were not. At the French GP, Tom Pryce, starting from 3rd on the grid was worried by overheating, and missed the start signal, looking at his gauges when the race was started. Reutemann hit the rear of Pryce's car sending Tom into the path of Hunt, eliminating all three. At the Dutch GP, the race prior, Hunt had made a poor start and then collided with Pryce at the first corner, putting both men out.

The Brands incident Jerome.Inen recalls in his opening post may have been at the 1976 British GP. Not involving Scheckter, rather was started when the fast starting 3rd on the grid Regazzoni passed Hunt and touched poleman Lauda entering Paddock, causing 'Regga' to spin in front of Hunt, who tried to avoid Regga and was launched onto two wheels, damaging his suspension. Jaques Laffitte then hit Regga, ending in the barriers. The race was red flagged and in the 40 minute delay for arguments over restarting in spare cars, Hunts car was repaired, and he took the restart to win, was subsequently disqualified and then re-instated on appeal later in the year.

One multi car start incident that 'Big Ears' omitted .....although not strictly at the start, within a few hundred metres. In 1978 we lost Ronnie Peterson to a multi car incident just after the start, at Monza. This was in fact triggered by the starter letting the race start prior to the tail enders coming to a stop.

During Friday practice for the Belgian GP 1981 at Zolder, Giovanni Amedeo, a mechanic, lost his life when he fell from the pitwall into the path of Carlos Reutemann’s Williams which although not in any way a Race start incident, was certainly the catalyst for one ..

Drivers and Pit-Crew arranged a demonstration in the minutes before the race start (same GP Zolder '81) in a plea for safety to be reviewed. But the race organisers, one eye on the on the schedule, sent cars off to form the final grid too soon. It was in this confusion that Riccardo Patrese’s Arrows stalled on the grid, as the cars lined up to start the race. and his mechanic, Dave Luckett, jumped the pit wall to re-start it.

But the starters gave the green light and the live TV audience watched as cars swerved around Patrese, Luckett behind the car. Unfortunately Patrese's team mate, Siegfried Stohr was unsighted by the swerving cars and hit Luckett and the car.Unbeleivably for Luckett, Stohr, and above all the race organisers lucky Luckett escaped with a broken leg.

From the FIA video review of the race
****WARNING GRAPHIC SCENES**** Viewer discretion advised


#41 Jerome

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 21:12

An interesting sidenote to this discussion which was already sleeping: if you watch this footage (Monaco Grand Prix 1961), you see that already then the cars were pretty quick up to speed, and potentially pile ups could have been just as possible. So messing up the start to seems, indeed, a matter of discipline. Or better: lack thereof.

#42 taylov

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 16:21

1958 Indy 500 - then still a Drivers' WC event .

Due to a pace car foul-up, the entire front row managed to be almost a lap ahead of the rest of the field on the pace lap(s). Rathmann, Elisian and Reece lapped the field before the start!!

Going into the northeast turn on Lap 1, Ed Elisian made a dive to the inside of Rathmann but spun in the process. Reece and Veith, just behind the two leaders, hit each other and poor Pat O'Connor ran over Reece's car, flipped and landed upside down with fatal consequences.

Most of the remaining cars then got involved in the crash to varying degrees - Jerry Unser exiting the speedway in a 100 yard flight over the wall !!

A panoramic photo in Dick Wallen's book "Fabulous Fifties" shows no less than 19 cars in various stages of crashing or on the infield recovering (Jerry Unser is already AWOL).

#43 E.B.

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 16:34

Originally posted by taylov
Due to a pace car foul-up, the entire front row managed to be almost a lap ahead of the rest of the field on the pace lap(s).


I've never quite been able to determine how big a part the initial mix up played in causing the crash.

Anyway, of about 4 fatal accidents that poor Ed Elisian got blamed for, this was probably the only one in which some of that blame was justified.

#44 taylov

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 16:59

I've never quite been able to determine how big a part the initial mix up played in causing the crash. - posted by E.B.

The press at the time suggested that Elisian and Rathmann had not settled after their wild charge through the rest of the grid.

There seems agreement that the first half lap was highly pressured. The pass that caused the accident was preceeded by a couple of near misses between the two leaders.

Elisian was suspended but was back racing by August 1958.

Elisian was to lose his life a year later when his "Travelon Trailer" sponsored Kurtis-Offy spun on oil at Turn One at Milwaukee in a 200 mile race. His car turned over and burned in a alcohol fire that reportedly took nine minutes to put out.