There have been some evil weekends in the history of motor racing. At Monza in 1933 three drivers died on the same day; at Imola in 1994 Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger died and Rubens Barrichello suffered a huge crash, his life being saved by the rapid arrival of Professor Sid Watkins in the medical car.
And then there was Spa in June 1960…
It was a time when British teams were becoming dominant in F1 and that weekend no fewer than eight British drivers were on the 19-car entry list: Graham Hill (31), Innes Ireland and Stirling Moss (both 30), Tony Brooks (28), Alan Stacey (27), and Mike Taylor (26), Jim Clark (24) and Chris Bristow (22).
Things were normal on Friday, but on the hot Saturday afternoon events turned nasty. Moss crashed his Rob Walker Lotus in the latter part of the high-speed Burnenville corner, as the result of a left rear stub axle failure, which resulted in the wheel coming off the car. Moss spun, hit the earth bank on the outside of the corner and was thrown out of the car. The wreck bounced across the road, ending up on the inside of the turn. Stirling suffered two broken legs, three damaged vertebrae and a broken nose. Several drivers stopped to help, but no ambulance appeared and so F1 debutant Taylor set off to drive back to the pits – to get help. On the way his factory Lotus suffered a steering column failure in the high speed La Carriere section. The car went off, ran over ditch and was launched into nearby trees, uprooting the first one it hit. Miraculously, he was not killed, but suffered multiple injuries which would end his racing career.
The next day it was a sombre group who took off at the start of the race. With Moss and Taylor out, the grid was down to only 17 cars, but they ran close together in the early laps. The lap times were very fast, with the fastest lap being set at an average of 136mph. There were problems for Ireland who spun five times at Blanchimont before going off the road and down a bank, but the chirpy Scottish driver emerged unhurt.
Just after the halfway mark Bristow was involved in a fierce fight with the Ferrari of Willy Mairesse. He was pushing too hard and lost control of his Cooper close to where Moss had crashed the previous day. The car ran up an earth bank and Bristow was decapitated by a barbed wire fence separating the track from an adjoining field. The car then rolled and the driver’s body was thrown out on to the track. Clark only narrowly missed running into it.
The race went on. Six laps later Stacey’s Lotus went off, just after Burnenville, as he was heading towards the Malmédy section. The car hit the earth bank and then went end over end across the road, flying over the earth bank on the inside of the track through a hedge and ended up down the embankment, where it caught fire. It would emerge later that he had almost certainly been hit in the face by a bird and may have been unconscious even before the car hit the earth bank.
Three of the four youngest British drivers were gone. Only Clark remained.