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1959 Nürburgring 1000Kms; Moss involvement with a fatality?


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#1 Seppi_0_917PA

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Posted 22 February 2003 - 14:24

I have just finished reading the Robert Edwards Moss biography. In it there is a reference to an incidence in the 1959 Nürburgring 1000Kms:

"But there had been a distressing sidebar to this triumph, which offered uncomfortable echoes to Caracas. A Swiss amateur driver had lost his life after "swapping paint" with the Moss Aston Martin. There had been no collision as such, merely a touch, but it was clearly enough to cause the other driver to lose control." pg 237

I've read about this race a few times recently, I had read Chris Nixon's Sports Car Heaven and his Moss article in the current Vintage Motorsport (2003/1), and I didn't see this mentioned. This morning I quickly looked in Stiring Moss, My Cars, My Career (Nye), Racing With The David Brown Aston Martins Vol 1 & 2 (Nixon), and The Certain Sound (Wyer); again no mention.

Who was the Swiss driver?

Any more details about the incident?

Any previous threads on TNF about this. (I don't believe I could narrow down a BB search without first knowing the Swiss' name.)

Thanks

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#2 Udo K.

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Posted 22 February 2003 - 14:48

The Swiss driver was Fausto Meyrat, who shared an Auto Union RS1080 (No.42) with countryman Stefan Brugger. The accident happened during lap 9.
I have copies of all the original ADAC press releases, but there is no mention of another car involved. It just says, that the car left the road.
But they also said in these reports, which were written during the course of the race, that Meyrat was taken to Adenau hospital suffering only cracked cribs. Obviously one was not aware of the seriousness of the accident during the race went on.
Unfortunately I do not have contemporary race reports from motoring magazins such as
Auto Motor und Sport, but I'm sure, one of the German TNF members will dig out something.

#3 Felix Muelas

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Posted 22 February 2003 - 22:19

My friend Jose Luis Otero mentions Fausto Meyrat on his work, and two things seem to call my attention on his abbreviated notes :

a) It looks like the wife of Meyrat accused Moss directly of the accident. No mention of how, but he was "cleared" of that accusation (I´ll find Jose Luis´s source for this)

b) Another is that although an amateur driver, one can find his name in the Ollon-Villars hill-climb in August 1956; he drove his DKW to a second place in Group I (between 750 y 1.000 cm3), after the similar car of R. Meyer.

#4 Doug Nye

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Posted 22 February 2003 - 23:07

My understanding of this unfortunate incident is that Moss came upon the backmarker when travelling very much faster in his Aston Martin DBR1/300. He saw the car move to one side and almost instantaneously his natural reflexes persuaded him that he had been seen. He dived for the available gap only to have the backmarker move back against the side of the Aston as he went by. SM's recollections are minimal. He was virtually unaware of any contact, so light had been the touch, but nonetheless the unfortunate Swiss lost control of his car and crashed heavily, with the fatal consequences quoted.

DCN

#5 David McKinney

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Posted 23 February 2003 - 06:22

Meyrat's widow sued - or at least threatened to sue - Moss over the incident. Presumably nothing came of it, or more would have been heard. I'll try and find my source for this (Reuter's press story)

#6 Roger Clark

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Posted 23 February 2003 - 08:01

Autosport (June 19 1959) said:

"The implication of te threatened action against Stirling Moss as a result of Meyrat's accident are of vital importance to Motor Racing. Autosport has pointed out on many occasions the perils of permitting comparitively inexperienced drivers in slow cars to compete in the same event as experts in very fast machines. The organisers have cleared Stirling of all responsibility and the matter should end there".

#7 Uwe

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Posted 23 February 2003 - 08:50

Originally posted by Doug Nye
My understanding of this unfortunate incident is that Moss came upon the backmarker when travelling very much faster in his Aston Martin DBR1/300. He saw the car move to one side and almost instantaneously his natural reflexes persuaded him that he had been seen. He dived for the available gap only to have the backmarker move back against the side of the Aston as he went by. SM's recollections are minimal. He was virtually unaware of any contact, so light had been the touch, but nonetheless the unfortunate Swiss lost control of his car and crashed heavily, with the fatal consequences quoted.

DCN

Your description reminds me of an incident I once had on an Autobahn. I was going to overtake someone with much higher speed and he, obviously not having used his mirrors, swerved into my way. Then he realized it, swerved back violently to avoid the crash and nearly lost it.

Maybe they even didn't make contact and Meyrat lost control when he tried to get out of Moss' way.

Uwe

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 23 February 2003 - 10:32

Originally posted by Roger Clark
Autosport (June 19 1959) said:

"The implication of te threatened action against Stirling Moss as a result of Meyrat's accident are of vital importance to Motor Racing. Autosport has pointed out on many occasions the perils of permitting comparitively inexperienced drivers in slow cars to compete in the same event as experts in very fast machines. The organisers have cleared Stirling of all responsibility and the matter should end there".


They didn't have the foresight to predict something like what happened when Mark Donohue was killed...

#9 Tweddell

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Posted 24 February 2003 - 10:03

Here another story:
Eifel Klassik 1996, Nordschleife 300km race .

Stirling Moss (sharing a Cobra Daytona Coupe with Jochen Neerpasch) reported after the race, he had a great race .....,only a little contact with any other car, but nothing serious at all.

Steve Minoprio after the race: Moss went into my car , only to stay on the best line , I had at this moment. The whole side exhaust system was jerked out of the car, I was lucky not to crash the car totally"

#10 RSNS

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Posted 25 February 2003 - 02:11

I'm definitely on Moss's side on this one. The most important feature of fast sports car driving used to be to loose the minimum time possible in overtakings, as there was a huge difference in power between the faster and the slower cars.

Of course, that supposed that the slower driver knew that and gave way as soon as possible and was paying attention to the fast drivers coming upon him.

If the driver could not do it he would endanger both the driver of the faster car (for instance, Siffert in the pratice sessions of 1971) and himself.

#11 Seppi_0_917PA

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Posted 25 February 2003 - 03:58

Thanks all! A Google search on "Fausto Meyrat" only returned a couple of results pages for the 1000Kms. The wspr-racing.com results indicate that Meyrat's co-driver Stefan Brugger DND (did not drive). My rough back-of-an-envelope calculation based on qualifying times tells me that Meyrat had been driving his 1,100cc for 1½ hours without being lapped by the leaders and that Moss was the first to get to him. If this is true, then Stirling's presence may have surprised or flustered him.

The text continues with Moss' view of the situation:

"...cause the other driver to lose control. Yet again, the suggestion emerges that these sports car races were two-tier events:

'If a slower driver stays where he is, even if he's in the wrong place on the circuit, you can always go around him, but if he moves from there to what is now really the wrong place, when you are already committed on a long bend, there's just nothing you can do; really terrible. '

So there were elements of deflection involved, which a driver who actually navigated a bend, as opposed to drifting his way through it, might not necessarily grasp. It is a chilling realisation." pg244

#12 Ray Bell

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Posted 25 February 2003 - 10:12

I'd say it was awfully unlikely he was being lapped for the first time.

After an hour and a half, Moss could easily have a twenty-five minute lead on a little car like that.

#13 Seppi_0_917PA

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Posted 25 February 2003 - 13:32

Here's my methodology - Moss/Fairman qualifying time = 9:43 and Meyrat/Brugger = 11:08; I rounded these to 9:45 and 11:10. Their cumulative times would sum:

Lap........Moss..........Meyrat
..........h:mm:ss......h:mm:ss
[list=1]
[*]...0:09:45.....0:11:10
[*]...0:19:30.....0:22:20
[*]...0:29:15.....0:33:30
[*]...0:39:00.....0:44:40
[*]...0:48:45.....0:55:50
[*]...0:58:30.....1:07:00
[*]...1:08:15.....1:18:10
[*]...1:18:00.....1:29:20
[/list=1]
Meyrat completed 8 laps, the accident occurring on his 9th lap as Udo K. said above. My schedule has Moss completing 8 laps 10 seconds faster than Meyrat completing 7 laps, so my cross-over point is a lap earlier than reality. Perhaps Moss had a pit stop and Meyrat didn't. An actual lap chart would give us the real answer but this the "rough back-of-an-envelope calculation" which brought me to say he was being lapped for the first time.

#14 Ray Bell

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Posted 25 February 2003 - 20:45

Your'e probably right, but would Moss have remained in the car at a pit stop?

Also, it's more difficult for a backmarker to maintain lap speeds than a hare at the front of the field...

#15 Kpy

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Posted 25 February 2003 - 23:57

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Your'e probably right, but would Moss have remained in the car at a pit stop?


Moss handed over to Fairman after 17 laps, 16 of which were under the lap record. Fastest of those 9:32,. I think that must have been the first stop for the Aston.
Seppi_0_917PA's basic theory seems to hold up - Moss must have been the first to lap him.
No blame on Moss though, if Meyrat moved over on him.

#16 Ray Bell

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Posted 26 February 2003 - 04:28

Meyrat, it seems, improved on his practice time pretty well... or maybe he'd had a slow lap, a stop or something, and put himself in a position for Moss to catch him that way.

#17 Ian McKean

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Posted 27 February 2003 - 10:22

There's a lot to be said for Ken Tyrrell's idea that the slower car should stay on the racing line. It might be a pain in the a*** for faster cars to drive round it, but at least the faster car could have more confidence that the slower car would not swerve into its path. And it would not matter quite so much if the slower car's driver was not using his mirrors.

#18 Doug Nye

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Posted 01 March 2003 - 21:04

When he drove in the Italian GP at Monza for BRM, Howden Ganley told team manager Tim Parnell he was a bit concerned about getting in the way of the superstars should they come up to lap him, just supposing his BRM should strike trouble and he end up nursing it round. Tim put one big hand on Howden's shoulder and growled "Don't worry at all about that lad - you just drive your own line and if they're worth half the money they think they are they'll find a way past you...".

DCN

#19 RSNS

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 01:25

Good point, Doug. In sportscar driving it was very dificult to get the lines well because of the slower cars. I'm not refering to Moss's days now, but one must remember in the monster days - the big Fords, the 917 - they were racing together with normal 911s and even less powerful cars... The speed differential was as great as 130 Km/hour... (and the Moss Jaguars were driving against tiny MGs). That is why the truly greats - Rodriguez, Siffert, Ickx, Redman, Elford - were in such a demand: they could just find a way through faster than the others.

Great F1 drivers weren't necessarily as successufl. For instance, Andretti was beaten hands down by Brian Redman in Watkins Glenn in 1970 just because of that.

..

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#20 550spyder

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 07:10

Here in Interlagos/Brazil in the Classic Car races we apply Ken Tyrell rules. The slower car should take it´s normal track. The car that is overtaking should find it´s way to pass.
Of course as a mater of gentlemanship the slower cars drivers always facilitate the overtaking by early braking or lifting throtle. But it´s up to them.

#21 Lutz G

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 09:09

Originally posted by Seppi_0_917PA

'If a slower driver stays where he is, even if he's in the wrong place on the circuit, you can always go around him, but if he moves from there to what is now really the wrong place, when you are already committed on a long bend, there's just nothing you can do; really terrible. '


Reminds me on Zolder '82.

Lutz

#22 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 09:34

At Lobethal in 1948 they tried a 'keep to the right and let the faster drivers pass on the left' rule...

One of the faster drivers forgot in the heat of the moment, hence...

Posted Image

...and it was only an MG TC!

#23 Seppi_0_917PA

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 03:58

One year later...

I'm reading a book I haven't read since I was a boy, Robert Daley's Cars at Speed (1961), and I came across his write-up of the incident :

The Thousand Kilometers of 1959 was won by Stirling Moss and Jack Fairman, a forty-six-year old amateur. Fairman drove eight laps, a total of about an hour and twenty minutes, plus the seven minutes it took him to lever the car back onto the road with the branch of a tree after making an excursion into the forest.

Moss drove thirty-seven laps, or six hours and ten minutes. Twice he handed Fairman juicy leads, which Fairman dissipated. The third time that Moss took over the lone green Aston Martin he rode it furiously to the end, charging past car after car, blazing at last past Phil Hill. Hill, his Ferrari faster but less agile (it still steered like a boat, he said), simply was overwhelmed by Moss.

This is the sort of thing which has made Moss so popular in his own country. He is a virtuoso among drivers. And he drives British green. For as long as the car holds up he outdrives any­body. And if the car should buckle under such strain—why, that’s not Moss’s fault, is it? Or so the public reasons.

In any case, at some point during this race, while Moss was blasting by slower cars, he evidently nicked a car driven by one Fausto Meyrat, a Swiss amateur.

Meyrat spun round and round, then crashed off the road into a tree. He died a few hours later.

Meyrat’s wife charged Moss with “negligent killing.” Coblenz police opened an inquiry.

Moss said he was “staggered” by the charge. “I drive always with some thought for the other fellow. Without that none of us would live very long.”

Then he added coldly: “If an inexperienced driver involves you in an accident and then you get sued, the whole principle is wrong. I am terribly sorry for Meyrat’s widow. But if you allow your husband to drive in a race, you must expect, when he makes a mistake, to bear the consequences.”

Moss ordered his lawyers to “thrash” the whole thing out. Who was Meyrat? What was he doing in such a race? How often had he raced before?

At stake, Moss asserted, were his own reputation and the future of motor racing. “I can’t be blamed for this man’s death.”

While the charge still hung over him, Moss also lashed out at other races, such as Le Mans and Sebring, in which raw amateurs such as Meyrat are allowed, encouraged even, to race against pros.

“To my mind,” Moss said, “only thirty drivers in the world are skilled enough to race at Le Mans or the Nürburgring. But 120 drivers turn up every time. Organizers receive them gladly.”

The charge of negligent killing against Stirling Moss was dropped for lack of evidence, or perhaps squashed by the Automobile Club of Germany (the race organizer), it is difficult to say which.

pgs 216 -218

#24 Doug Nye

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 07:38

Pretty good example of why Robert Daley had such a poor reputation within the motor sporting world around the time his book was published.

If one deletes the misconception that Jack Fairman was an "amateur" driver and then takes out such critical words as "coldly", the emphatic quotes around "thrash" (because to 'thrash out' a solution would be perfectly normal everyday English useage whereas to emphasise the emotive word "thrash" infers sadistic bullying), and "lashed out" plus the probably baseless suggestion that the organising club was able to "squash" legal procedure.... you have a reasonably balanced account of what happened.

A reasonably balanced account was not good enough for Daley's selling concept of his books such as that entitled 'The Cruel Sport', and so almost everything he wrote was hyped-up in this way - for controversy's sake...his selling point.

Daley's view of the game might well - in retrospect - have been justified - but he was probably 10-20 years ahead of his time.

Regardless, he was viewed at the time as just another precious American prat.

DCN

#25 Lotus23

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 00:51

I had personal experience with the Adenau hospital in '61. Rode there in the "ambulance" (a stretcher in a panel truck) while cradling the head of my grievously-injured buddy Ed after he'd rolled his Porsche at Brunnchen. His blood everywhere -- even on the track itself. Not a good day.

The level of medical care available in those days was awfully primitive: any neighborhood "doc-in-a-box" today is far better equipped than what was available then.

Ed survived, but with a lot of neurological sequelae.

#26 Buford

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 01:29

Daley may have been what Doug said, but his books are some of the primary ones that first got me interested in road racing.