The history of motor racing has not been without its share of catastrophes. But they almost all (thankfully) pale in comparison to the disaster that was the 1955 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And now that most unfortunate event is being animated into a short film.
Called, simply enough, Le Mans 1955, the 15-minute animated short is being directed by Belgian-French filmmaker Quentin Baillieux, who was inspired by an exhibit at the Louvre in Paris.
“I was struck by the beauty of the exhibited sports cars, especially a Jaguar which had competed in 1955 at Le Mans,” Baillieux said in his director’s notes, according to Classic Cars. “I began researching the that event and two very contradictory photos appeared next to one another on my screen. On one side, the image of a tragedy: people in a panic, a blazing inferno behind them. Bodies were sprawled across the stadium. The photo beside it depicted delighted drivers celebrating their victory with champagne. How could these two images be linked? How can we live a moment so joyful in parallel to one so tragic?”
The race, for those unfamiliar, was marred by a crash between an Austin-Healey, a Jaguar, and a Mercedes 300 SLR. After Mike Hawthorn cut his Jaguar in front of Lance Macklin’s Austin-Healey, Macklin swerved into the path of Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes. The crash not only claimed Levegh’s life, but those of 83 spectactors. Several countries – including France, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany – banned racing in the aftermath, and Mercedes withdrew from motorsports altogether. Mercedes wouldn’t return to racing until 1989, and Switzerland only recently began relaxing its ban on motorsports.
It was a pivotal event, in short – and one worth remembering. So we’re glad to see the tragedy immortalized by this project, and we’re looking forward to seeing it in full. For now, you can get a taste for what to expect in the trailer below.