The 49-year-old Levegh was hired by Mercedes as a token to the people of France, and giving him a shot at winning after coming within an hour of a solo-effort win ruined by an engine failure (connecting rod), in 1952. He was a legend in France for his 23 hour straight drive for victory, and was a fan favorite of the race. Though Levegh died on the track, he may have saved legendary racer Juan Manuel Fangio by giving a hand-signal to slow down.
The 300 SLR was revolutionary in its design. It featured a lightweight, magnesium honeycomb chassis that made for an incredibly strong but light sportscar. It also featured an air brake to help its drum brakes compete with Jaguar's superior disc brakes.
Mike Hawthorn was born in Mexborough, West Riding of Yorkshire, England. Hawthorne pushed like every lap was his last and Fangio diligently returned the favour. His father owned the Tourist Trophy Garage in Farnham, franchised to supply and service several high performance brands including Jaguar and Ferrari.
Jaguar's legendary D-Type is still one of the most beautiful and beloved cars, 60 years later. It featured a revolutionary aerodynamic design for a more streamlined and slippery top speed, and also featured its distinctive rear fin to stabilize the car at high speed.
Macklin was born in Kensington, and educated at Eton College. He volunteered for service with the Royal Navy in 1939 and (in line with his father's business) was assigned to work on motor gun boats. Lance Macklin was trying to prove he could be a racer after WWII. He participated in 15 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 18 May 1952.
Built primarily with racing in mind, the aluminium-bodied "100S" (for Sebring) model developed 132 bhp (98 kW) at 4700 rpm. Only 50 production cars were made, plus an additional five works development/special test cars hand built by the Donald Healey Motor Company in Warwick.
Lance Macklin is overtaken by Mike Hawthorn who brakes heavily in front of him to reach the pit.
Macklin has to steer left to avoid Hawthorn. Pierre Levegh crashes into the rear of Macklin and is catapulted off the road and over the track barrier.
The force of impact pushes Macklin into the right wall while Hawthorn comes to a halt in the pit.
Macklin comes to a rest against the stand, while Levegh's car catches fire and parts of it continue into the crowd.
It was the darkest day for motorsports, caused one car manufacturer to withdraw from racing for 30 years, and caused a nation (Switzerland) to ban motorsports in their country. It serves as a focal point for the 'Wild West' attitudes of safety and speed before the awakened need for motorsport safety.
It is something we should never forget as we reflect on 60 years since its tragedy.