The U-bolt in the Philippines has long been an essential for several models when it comes to suspension. Probably some of the vehicles who figured in these three car crashes also had a U-bolt on their car, but probably not of good quality as it was not made in the Philippines. So what are these crashes? And what did they do to the world of racing?
Considered to be one of the best Formula One racers of all time, Ayrton Senna’s brief, but successful life was cut short a the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix after the car he was driving crashed against a concrete wall at an estimated 307 KpH. The injuries sustained by Senna were fatal; a piece of the suspension partially penetrating Senna’s helmet, a wedge of the upright assembly piercing through the visor and hitting him just above the right eye and the impact of the car hitting against the wall causing his head to push back against his headrest, which then caused fatal cranial fractures. Hours later, he was declared dead due to a damaged superficial temporal artery.
After the fatal crash, F1 tracks had a change in design, with more space in between the walls and the tracks to give the cars more time to slow down before a collision. In addition, the F1 vehicles’ design themselves were altered, with the cockpits’ sides raised for more driver protection, the suspension altered and the front wing and diffuser resized.
21 years after the death of Ayrton Senna, another life was cut short at the track, but this time it was at the 2014 Grand Prix. His name was Jules Bianchi and his death was the first Grand Prix fatality since 1994. If the surname rings a bell, it’s because his granduncle, Lucien Bianchi, was a fellow racer who died during the 1969 Le Mans testing. In Jules case, his was not an immediate death; rather, it occurred nine months after his accident.
It was on October 5th and the conditions were less than ideal. There was heavy rainfall and the race was held in fading daylight. On his 43rd lap, the young Bianchi lost control of his vehicle and swerved towards the Dunlop curve of the Suzuka Circuit. The car smashed into a tractor crane’s trunk, which was then removing a previous contender’s crashed vehicle. Bianchi was immediately brought to the nearest hospital and was deemed to have critical head injuries, with the doctors operating soon to reduce his head’s severe bruising. He was flown to home to France in November 2014. He never regained consciousness and passed away on July 17, 2015 at age 25.
Changes were soon made, with the governing body of Formula One, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), altering the race times to prevent any racing in the dark. Track draining regulations were also changed as well as the method on how emergency vehicles were to respond to future collisions.
Perhaps no other crash changed the face of racing than one that happened more than 60 years ago. It was 1955 and most racing enthusiasts have dubbed Pierre Levegh’s collision as “The worst crash in motor sports”.
It was the 1955 24 hours of Le Mans race. What should have been a normal race turned out to be a tragedy. It all began when Mike Hawthorn cut Lance Macklin, which then caused the latter to swerve into the way of an incoming speeding Levegh. The accident caused Levegh’s vehicle to propel upwards, towards the spectator’s area and hitting an concrete stairwell. Chaos ran supreme, with 120 injured, 83 of the audience dead, and Levegh himself, lying lifeless on the track. For hours the car burned. You would think the governing body would stop the race, but still it continued on with Hawthorn winning the race.
The aftermath was legendary, with Merecdes-Benz redrawing itself from the racing circuit til its return in the 80. Several of the drivers who competed that year never raced again on the Le Mans track, including Hawthorn’s rival, Juan Miguel Fangio. Several countries have banned motorsports on their soil, including Switzerland who until today, outlaws it.
There will always be changes when it comes to racing, but it will always be for a reason. It may not take a tragic event like any of these for it to occur, but when it does happen drivers and team owners must accept them for they have no other purpose than to better the sport.