Video: Le Mans 1956 onboard with Mike Hawthorn
Onboard at Le Mans is always a special thing to witness, the long sweeping straights, the tight corners, the images of dusk and dawn and the more often than not insane speed differences between the cars on the track make it a firm favourite among motorsport fans. The video in this post (see below) should be no different, it should be even more special really since it was filmed on one of the days before the 1956 Le Mans 24 hours race, and significantly, features Jaguar D-Type driver Mike Hawthorn. Hawthorn has come to be known over the years as the instigator of the horrific crash of the 1955 race. More than 83 were killed after Hawthorn violently braked just before the main straight to get into the pits just after overtaking an Austin-Healey, the Healey, driven by Lance Macklin, had no other opportunity than swerving across the track and into the path of the charging Mercedes 300 SLR of Pierre Levegh who in turn stormed into the grandstand with the dreadful consequences mentioned before. In this light this onboard video from 1956 takes on another dimension, especially if we take into account the commentary he gives in this video: "Just up here on the left where the terrible accident occured last year," then a surprisingly long moment of silence follows. Was he contemplating, reflecting his own actions of 1955 at this point? On that note one should perhaps ask the question; if he cared about accident, why on earth did he choose to take the completely pointless and raucous act of overtaking a car moments before going into the pits himself? Sadly it is a question that cannot be answered anymore, one thing we do know is that Hawthorn was disliked intensely by a part of the motorsport fraternity at the time (the rivalry with Luigi Musso is well documented), and known for being a reckless, arrogant and unpleasant character. Perhaps though, that was a prerequisite for some to cope with looking death into the face each time you got into a race car?