As fans of motorsports, we have to accept that to the incredible feats of speed and ingenuity on the track there is the dark side that, occasionally, comes to the fore.
That was in evidence in tragic fashion recently with the death of Anthoine Hubert, the young Formula 2 driver who lost his life in a crash at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The 22-year-old collided with the car of American driver Juan Manuel Correa at around 170mph, sending him into the safety barrier.
Hubert was part of Renault’s promising young driver programme, and was expected to have a big career when stepping up to Formula 1 in the near future.
It was a stark reminder of the dangers that lurk in high speed racing, and more so that that the safety record of Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is once again called into question.
The Belgian track features rather high on the list of tracks where driver fatalities are most commonplace, and the Raidillon twists and turns really have been a magnet for problems over the years – even if the course remains a favourite with many professional drivers of all disciplines.
Even with the ten drivers that have lost their life there, Spa incredibly isn’t the most dangerous racetrack in the world when counting major car races, as this list confirms.
Racetracks with the Most Motor Racing Fatalities
|Track||Location||Fatalities||Fatalities Since 2000|
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway||USA||22||1|
|Daytona International Speedway||USA||18||1|
|Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||Belgium||12||2|
|Circuit de la Sarthe||France||10||1|
#1 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
With more than 20 fatalities, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ring remains the most dangerous major racetrack on the planet.
Of course, there is perhaps some mitigation: the track has been open for more than a century, hosting the Indianapolis 500 – the world’s oldest automobile race – for much of that time.
More than 40 people have died at the Indianapolis 500, including drivers, mechanics, pit lane personnel and spectators , and one has died outside of the track during the race: the tragic tale of an eleven-year-old who lived in a house near the track and was hit by a tyre that had flown off a car and bounced out of the arena.
With drivers regularly touching 200mph in events at the track, the risk is huge for everyone present on race day.
#2 – Daytona International Speedway
Daytona plays host to races in all disciplines, from the famous Daytona 500 race in the NASCAR Championship to the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship.
More than 40 people have lost their lives in races at the multi-track facility, and arguably the most famous of these was Dale Earnhardt.
The 49-year-old was one of the most prolific winners in NASCAR history, triumphing in the Winston Cup on a record-equalling seven occasions.
Sadly, his outing in the Daytona 500 of 2001 would prove to be his last. Earnhardt was embroiled in a three-car crash on the final lap of the race, and died as a result of the injuries caused.
NASCAR introduced a raft of new safety measures in the wake of his death, and since that fateful day in 2001 no other driver in the competition has suffered fatal injury at Daytona.
However, deaths still continue to happen there in lesser-known super car, motorbike and go-karting competitions.
#3 – Nurburgring
A track built solely for the purposes of the highest speeds imaginable, Sir Jackie Stewart once described the Nurburgring as the ‘green hell’. And he wasn’t kidding.
More than 200 people have died here in public racing sessions, and the circuit has also claimed a number of lives in professional competition as well.
The good news is that the safety record at the Nurburgring is improving, with ‘only’ eight deaths here since the turn of the new millennium.
Notably, there have been three deaths in Formula 1 competition here. Onofre Marimon died in practice during the 1954 German Grand Prix, while the Englishman Peter Collins was killed in 1958 just weeks after winning the British Grand Prix.
Carel Godin de Beaufort and John Taylor died with two years of each other in 1964 and 1966 prior to a significant overhaul of the German layout.
#4 – Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Anthoine Hubert’s death was the latest in a long line of fatalities at Spa.
He was the fifth person to die during or immediately after the set of turns known as Raidillon, with the most recent three deaths occurring in the past decade.
Spa plays host to races of all disciplines, including Formula 1, the European Touring Car Championship, F3 and the World Endurance Motorbike Championships.
A number of fatalities have occurred during endurance races, which suggests there are other factors beyond the track itself to consider, but the safety record of Spa unfortunately still leaves plenty to be desired.
It is considered to be one of the most challenging tracks in the world, thanks to its twists and turns and severe changes in height, which help to facilitate some of the hair-raising speeds that the drivers are able to reach.
The track’s management team have tried to make it safer however with a range of modifications, aimed largely to prevent the high fatality count, where 17 drivers died in a wide range of competitions including three at the 1973 Spa 24 Hours alone.
#5 – Circuit de la Sarthe
This French track plays host to the 24-hour Le Mans race, which has led to numerous casualties over the years.
Up to 85% of every lap of Circuit de la Sarthe is at full throttle, which you can only imagine places a ridiculous amount of stress on the drivers. And the turn at the village of Mulsanne requires drivers to break from speeds of up to 200mph down to 60mph in a matter of seconds.
The circuit has undergone numerous changes over the years, and all of these have been undertaken with an improvement of safety in mind.
The tragedy of the 1955 Le Mans will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Pierre Levegh and 83 spectators all died as a result of the crash, while more than 180 others were injured in a collision so bad that Mercedes-Benz quit motor racing for more than three decades as a result.
A crash between Levegh and Lance Macklin saw the Frenchman’s car fired into the air before landing in the spectator’s area. That impact, as well as flying debris, accounted for the highest death count from a single motor racing incident in history.
An official enquiry found that the Le Mans track was to blame – it was simply too old and unable to cope with the high speeds of the cars of the day.
Changes were made, and while the death rate fell there have still been a number of high-profile casualties.
Allan Simonsen, a noted GT and super car driver, died on the third lap of the 2013 Le Mans when his car swerved into crash barriers as the Dane broke hard at the Tertre Rouge corner – the third driver to suffer a fatality at that part of the track.