The wrecked Mercedes-Benz after the crash at Le Mans in June of 1955. Eighty-five people were killed in the disaster as spectators look on from the stands. // The Le Mans disaster (Mirrorpix/Courtesy Everett Collection)

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The wrecked Mercedes-Benz after the crash at Le Mans in June of 1955. Eighty-five people were killed in the disaster as spectators look on from the stands.

When: 1955

Inherently, motor racing is dangerous, but most often so to the drivers behind the wheel. Yet in 1955, motorsports' worst disaster killed one competitor, but also dozens of spectators packed around the track in France. On June 11, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, Pierre Levegh's Mercedes-Benz struck the rear of another driver, sending his car hurtling and somersaulting toward the crowd. Loosened by the initial crash, huge, heavy pieces of the car hurtled towards spectators. Remarkably, the race continued while emergency crews tried to reach injured onlookers and battle a white-hot magnesium fire caused by the collision. In the end, Levegh was killed along with 83 spectators. Another 120 were injured.

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