The crash that changed the face of
The worst crash in motor racing history – killing
more than 80 people – was produced by a ferocious
and haunting combination of circumstances: nationalism,
raw speed, the nature of a 24-hour race, and chance.
The crash drew in Mike Hawthorn, the blond playboy
from Farnham, in a Jaguar, and Juan-Manuel Fangio,
one of the greatest drivers of all, in a Mercedes.
A crowd of 250,000 watched hypnotised as Hawthorn
set out to break Fangio, the two cars going faster
and faster... and faster. Another English playboy,
Lance Macklin, was caught up in the crash in his Austin-Healey,
along with a 50-year-old Frenchman driving under the
assumed name of Pierre Levegh. He was in the wrong
place at the wrong time. It cost him his life, even
as his car was torn to pieces and scythed into the
In this new and full study of the fateful day, Christopher
Hilton sets the race in context. Through a host of
interviews – with drivers, team members, journalists
and spectators – and original research at Le
Mans and in the Mercedes archive in Stuttgart, he
recreates every aspect of the race and the crash.
Much of the material has never been seen before. He
examines the aftermath – the bitter blame game,
the conflicting testimonies, the direct threat to
motorsport in Europe – and chronicles the beginning
of the culture of safety that has affected what we
see of motorsport on our television screens today.