- Pierre Levegh
Infobox F1 driver
Name = Pierre Levegh
Nationality = flagicon|France French
Years = F1|1950 - F1|1951
Team(s) = privateer
Races = 6
Championships = 0 | Wins = 0
Podiums = 0
Poles = 0
Fastest laps = 0
Points = 0
First race =
1950 Belgian Grand Prix
First win =
Last win =
Last race =
1951 Italian Grand Prix
Pierre Eugène Alfred Bouillin (b.
22 December 1905, Paris– d. 11 June 1955, Le Mans) was a French sportsman and racecar driver. He took the racing name "Pierre Levegh" in memory of his uncle, a pioneering driver who died in 1904. Levegh is mainly remembered for a disaster that killed him and 82 spectators during the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mansautomobile race.
Levegh was also a world-class
ice hockeyand tennisplayer. In motorsporthe competed in Formula 1for the Lago-Talbot team in 1950 and 1951, starting six races, retiring in three, and scoring no points.
At Le Mans he raced for
Talbotin four races, finishing fourth in 1951. In 1952, driving single-handedly, his car suffered an enginefailure in the last hour of the race with a four lap lead. This failure was probably caused by a missed gear change due to driver fatigue. In 1953 he came in eighth, and in 1954 he was involved in an accident in the seventh hour of racing.
In 1955 he was tempted away from
Talbotand joined the American John Fitch in racing a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. In the third hour of racing, while on the Tribunes Straight, he clipped the Austin-Healeyof Lance Macklinthat was forced to make an evasive move after Mike Hawthorndove into the pits. After hitting an earth bank, the car flew through the air, disintegrating, scattering components into the crowd. Levegh was killed in front of his wife's eyes when he was thrown free of the car and crushed his skull. Flying parts and a fire killed 82 spectators, while over 100 were injured. The race was continued in order to prevent the spectators from leaving, which would have blocked all access roads and the ambulances.
Though Levegh was unable to save himself, he may have saved the life of five-time Formula 1 world champion
Juan Manuel Fangiobehind him. Before crashing into the embankment, Levegh waved his arm in the air and Fangio was able to brake in time to avoid Levegh.
While Mercedes withdrew from the race as a sign of respect to the victims (and later from motor racing in general for the next 30 years),
Mike Hawthornand Ivor Buebcontinued in their Jaguar to win the race. The accident was a major contributor to changing attitudes about the acceptance of danger in motor racing and an increase in the desire to make courses safer for spectators and drivers alike. The small British firm of Bristol Cars, whose entrants achieved a 1-2-3 finish in the 2-litre class at Le Mans that year, decided to abandon racing altogether as a result of the tragedy, scrapping all but one of their racing cars. Fitch became a safety advocate and began research into automotive safety, some of which have advanced into motorsport.
Levegh is buried in the
Pere Lachaise Cemeteryin Paris.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
1955 Le Mans disaster
* [http://www.ewilkins.com/wilko/lemans.htm 1955 Le Mans Disaster]
* [http://www.planet-cutie.co.uk/lemans1955.htm Diagram of the 1955 Le Mans Disaster]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.