From the motorsport archive: on this day in 1955


Mercedes would withdraw from motorsport for 35 years after a fatal 300 SLR crash

Tough times for motorsport in general, especially for team Mercedes. But there was a silver lining…

Motorsport had a tough time in 1955, as two disasters befell sports car racing.

At the Le Mans 24 Hours, 83 fans were killed and 180 more injured when a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR was launched into the grandstand. Still the most catastrophic incident in motorsport history, it led to the leading German firm immediately withdrawing from motorsport, not returning for another 35 years.

Then just three months later, at the incredibly tight and fast (read dangerous) Dundrod street circuit in Ireland, three drivers crashed fatally. Incomprehensibly in retrospect, both races were allowed to continue up to the scheduled finish.

We did find the faintest of silver linings, with Mercedes’ withdrawal leaving the British cars of Jaguar and Vanwall to dominate the endurance racing scene.

The UK already had arguably the best driver corps, having won Le Mans, Dundrod, the Targa Florio, the Mille Miglia and the Goodwood 9 Hours.

Mercedes quitting would also benefit grand prix racing, because it had tediously won the Formula 1 title. Only a surprise win for Ferrari in Monaco broke the hegemony, the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio becoming a three-time champion.

And to our liking, rallying grew in popularity and therefore attracted more manufacturer investment.

Source: Autocar

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