’60: Tragedy at Spa.

A Dark Cloud Over The Belgian GP.

Two drivers were seriously injured in practice.  By the end of the grand prix, two more lay dead.  Even as injuries mounted, the race went on.  It always does.  The quest to be ultimately quickest, and the spectacle that accompanied it, are inevitably placed over the loss of human life?  The question is why, but I am not sure that I have a good reason.

1960 Belgian GP Crash Locations

Stirling Moss Seriously Injured.

Stirling Moss goggles no backgroundPractice.  Right-hander after Burneville.  Broken back, legs, and pelvis.

Eoin Young’s book, McLaren Memories, contains Bruce McLaren’s account of this tragic weekend.  Bruce had been following his mentor, Jack Brabham.  Just after Burneville, Brabham hit the afterburners and widened the gap back to McLaren.  According to Bruce, “I had a strange feeling something was wrong and backed off just a fraction.  Just as well.  I was shattered to see Moss’ Lotus spinning wildly on the road in front of me.”

As McLaren approached the accident, he watched Moss’ car ricochet and then flip into the air.  Bruce, himself, was first at Stirling Moss’ side, who had been thrown into soft brush.  He worked to calm to calm Moss, as they both came to realize the severity of his injuries. Recognizing Moss’ car, every driver that passed, stopped.  At least ten minutes passed, and there was still no sign of an ambulance.  Michael Taylor, another driver, was sent to the pits to retrieve help and find out if an ambulance was coming.  He never arrived.

Michael Taylor Paralyzed.

Practice.  Returning to pits.  Paralyzed.

Having been sent back to the pits to get help for Stirling Moss, Taylor hit the pedal and flew back to the pits.  On his way, running at high speeds in the reverse direction, his steering column sheered.  As indicated above, the first-person reports were did not identify specifically where the accident occurred.  We simply know it was out of sight from the Moss accident, but before the sight-line of the pits.  Reports suggest that he was paralyzed.  In any event, he never raced again.

As an after-note, Michael Taylor, was not a factory Lotus driver.  He raced for the Taylor-Crawley racing team.  This meant that T-C had purchased the car.  Thus, Taylor pursued a products liability claim against Colin Chapman and team Lotus under a theory of defective design.  Taylor and/or the Taylor-Crawley racing team received a significant out of court settlement.

After these two serious injuries, the race went forward on Sunday.

The Race.

Despite the injuries in practice, Jack Brabham had thrown down a blistering lap of 3:50.0, around the 8.7 mile course, to take pole position.  His Cooper-Climax teammate, took second on the grid.  Stirling Moss, in his Lotus-Climax sat third on the grid.

Chris Bristow Killed.

Lap 19.  Right-hander after Burneville.  Killed.

On lap 19, Chris Bristow’s speedometer crested past 140 mph.  Suddenly, just where Moss had wrecked, Bristow lost control of his Cooper.  As quoted by Eoin Young, in McLaren Memories, Bruce McLaren stated, “As I flashed past I knew it was a Yeoman Credit car, which meant it had to be Brooks or Bristow and I knew it was bad.  In fact, I knew it was as bad as it could be.  As I went past an ambulance man pulled a blanket over the driver.”  He had hit a wire fence and was fatally wounded by it.

Alan Stacey Killed.

Lap 24.  Masta.  Hit by bird; lost control and killed.

Just a few laps later, Alan Stacey lost his life in a bizarre occurence.  Several sources suggest that he was hit by a bird.  The impact of the bird, either broke his neck and killed him instantly or knocked him unconscious such that the subsequent impact killed him.  To me, the incident is eerily similar to Felipe Massa’s crash.  It also reminds me how easily Massa could have been killed that day.  Stacey’s fuel leaked and the car caught fire.  It would remain burning, every time the driver’s passed by, for at least thirty minutes.

Jack Brabham Wins the Tragic Grand Prix.

Jack Brabham Outline

Bruce McLaren took second.  Jack Brabham won the race.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to win a race, in which two were dead and two seriously injured.  Here is some insight as to Bruce McLaren viewed it, as quoted in McLaren Memories:

“Something like this is easier to reconcile, on the basis adopted by Battle of Britain pilots.  If your number was up, that was it and there was little you could do about it.”

carshapesblackDriver’s Championship

  • Bruce McLaren – 20
  • Jack Brabham – 16
  • Stirling Moss – 11

Constructor’s Championship

  • Cooper-Climax – 30
  • Lotus-Climax – 17
  • Scuderia Ferrari – 15

Sources

  • Belgian GP, 1960, Race Report, GrandPrix.com (retrieved November 3, 2013).  GrandPrix.com is generally my first stop for every race I do.  Their race summaries, consistently, are the most accurate.
  • Grand Prix Data Book: 1997 (Duke 1996).  A reliable source for “the numbers.”
  • Tragic Day Overshadows Jack Brabham Victory, ESPN F1 – ESPN F1 is usually my second stop for race commentary.
  • When Spa Was Deadly, F1speedwriter: The Gerald Donaldson Web Log (retrieved November 2, 2013).
  • Eoin Young, McLaren Memories: A Biography of Bruce McLaren, 90-92 (Haynes 2005).