On 11 June 1955, a major crash occurred during the 24 Hours of Le Mans motor race at Circuit de la Sarthe. The accident happened at 6:25 pm, at the end of lap 35, when the first pit stops for the leading cars were starting.
The crash started when Jaguar driver Mike Hawthorn pulled to the right side of the track in front of Austin-Healey driver Lance Macklin and started braking for his pit stop. Macklin swerved out from behind the slowing Jaguar into the path of Pierre Levegh, who was passing on the left in his much faster Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.
Levegh’s car skipped over a protective earthen berm at 200 km/h and made at least two impacts within the spectator area, the last of which caused it to disintegrate, throwing him onto the track where he was instantly killed, and sending large pieces of debris into the packed spectator area in front of the grandstand, including the engine block, front suspension, and hood. The rear of Levegh’s car landed on the berm and exploded into flames.
Accounts put the death toll at 80 to 84, either by flying debris or from the fire, with a further 120 to 178 injured.