Mercedes has a long relationship with motorsports, still claiming the title of the most successful brand in the history of the international racing. That doesn’t mean the Germans haven’t run out of luck every know and then.
And when they did accidents, including the most horrific in the history of motoring, crawled their ugly heads in history books. Here is a quick video compilation of the worst Mercedes crashes ever.
The 1955 Le Mans Historic Carnage
Even today, the disaster recorded during the 1955 Le Mans motor race is still referred to as the biggest tragedy in motorsport history. The carnage occurred after the Mercedes 300 SLR driven by Pierre Levegh literally flew into the dense crowd claiming the lives of eighty-three spectators. Levegh was instantly killed as well while more than 120 people have sustained heavy trauma following the most terrifying racing accident ever.
The catastrophic event was set in motion by the misstep of English driver Mike Hawthorn. Trying to reach the pit-stops, he cut in front of Lance Macklin who swerved right into the path of Levegh’s Mercedes who had no chance to brake, hitting Macklin’s Austin. Levegh’s car took off, leaving the track and hitting a concrete stairwell. The wreck exploded in flames with debree flying as far as 100-meters, decapitating tenths of bystanders. None of the implicated drivers were held responsible for the death toll, with only the layout of the 30-year old track left to blame.
The 1999 CLR-GT1 Le Mans disaster
1999 was the year Mercedes-Benz had been forced for the second time in its history to retire from the Le Mans race and subsequently from any motorsport related activities for a short period. The incident which sparked this decision was nowhere near as tragic as the horrific 1955 Le Mans disaster, though, as no deaths were registered. An aerodynamic design flaw in the CLR caused the car to go airborne few hours into the 1999 race. In short, large amounts of air were allowed to build up underneath the nose of the car. This phenomenon occured especially when the CLR was closely tailing another race car on steep inclines, notably on the Mulsanne Straight.
Right before the bumpy Indianapolis corner, Peter Dumbreck’s CLR took off, subsequently flying off the side of the track and landing in the trees. The pilot sustained no severe injuries, fortunately, but his stunt captured the imagination of media outlets immediately. Caught by TV cameras, the incident became the focus of sports news bulletins around the world, forcing Mercedes-Benz to withdraw the remaining CLRs and avoid a messy image-denting scandal in the process.
The 1994 Wendlinger Monte Carlo crash
Sauber-Mercedes Karl Wendlinger’ s driving career abruptly ended in 1994, just one race after the tragic San Marino trophy which marked the death of racing legend Ayrton Senna and Wendlinger’s own countryman Roland Ratzenberger. After a positive season debut, Werdlinger seemed more and more confident, scoring his first point that year at Interlagos and claiming the fourth place in the San Marino race.
The Monaco race that year was meant to be a new chance to continue his lucky strike. But fate had a different plan. The first practice session was marred by Wendlinger’s horrific crash. After exiting the famous Monte Carlo tunnel, his car spun out of control – following heavy braking in the Nouvelle Chicane. The German pilot violently hit the wall sideways, his head striking a water-filled barried. Although his vital signs were stabilized in a matter of minutes, Werdlinger didn’t come out of the coma for several weeks. He did recover, however, and came back to Formula One in 1995, never reaching the same success heights and retiring the same year.
The 2012 Schumacher DTM pit-lane horror
Just three years ago, Ralf Schumacher made newspaper headlines after causing a dramatic pit lane accident at the Zandvoort DTM grand-prix in Holland. Although involuntary, brother of seven time Formula 1 champion Michael left four men in hospital with injuries ranging from mild to severe.
Following a routine pit stop, Schumacher left off his team’s garage space without a glitch. Things were bound to become trickier, though, as moving away, his C-Class Coupe inadvertently caught an airline hanging from the shoulder of a neighbouring pit’s crew members. The story doesn’t end here. As Schumacher literally sped off dragging the airline behind him, all four adjacent pit crew members were violently sent to the ground, the wire hitting them with ghost-like force. Thankfully all of their injuries were non life-threatening. Still, the resulting video is surreal.