The unfortunate death of Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi brought into sharp focus a fact that is well known – motorsport is an extremely risky business. With the advent of technology has come a far higher level of safety, admittedly – it wasn’t that long ago that F1 drivers packed a black suit along with their racing overalls, in case they had to attend a colleague’s funeral. Bianchi’s tragic passing was F1’s first track-related death since Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were killed in Italy in 1994, and the sport is much the better for its greater focus on safety. There are other motorsport events, however, that are still extremely dangerous to take part in.
When you have massively powerful (but technologically outdated) cars going around in circles at 320 kph, literally inches apart, something is going to give. The NASCAR series in the USA is hugely popular as a spectator sport, and the punters appear to show up largely for the gargantuan crashes that are almost guaranteed
THE DAKAR RALLY
Initially, this event began in Paris and ended in Dakar, Senegal, but from 2009 it was shifted to South America, due to terrorist threats in Africa. Not that the shift has made the Dakar any safer – competitors and spectators alike are at constant risk in this gruelling rally raid, with fatalities at every single edition, to make no mention of serious injuries. India’s CS Santosh is the only Indian to have successfully completed the Dakar, in 2014 – read our piece on him here .
THE ISLE OF MAN TT
This race is totally and utterly insane – there are no other ways to describe it. It takes place on the narrow public roads of the Isle of Man, off the western coast of the UK, and involves motorcycles blasting around the island at close to 300 kph. The slightest wrong move can see a racer crash into things ranging from stone walls, people’s houses, hedges, other racers, lamp posts and even the sea. Almost 250 people have died in the event’s 111-year history.
THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS
This legendary endurance race has specially outfitted cars tearing around the Le Mans circuit for 24 hours, and it is incredibly taxing on drivers and spectators alike. The event’s worst accident took place way back in 1955, when a Mercedes crashed into the crowd, killing the driver and over 80 people. The race is notorious for the number times cars have literally lifted their noses and flown off the track, causing horrific crashes.
THE BAJA 1000
Driving through harsh desert terrain is tough enough at the best of times, but competitors in the Baja 1000, an off-road race held in the Baja California Peninsula off Mexico’s coast, have to endure several other dangers – such as spectators laying booby traps along the course. Bandits have occasionally taken people hostage, to add to the proceedings, but none of this appears to deter participants, who have included Hollywood biggies like Steve McQueen and James Garner.