• May 30 down the years

Indianapolis Day

What happened on May 30 in Formula One history?
Ray Harroun after winning the first Indianapolis 500 © Unknown

A day that was traditionally used to host the Indianapolis 500, first run in 1911 and between 1950 and 1960 included in the Formula One World Championship. There have been too many highlights at the famous event to list here, so we have just flagged the first race and the last when it counted towards the F1 crowns.

The inaugural Indianapolis 500, which was held on a Tuesday, attracted an international entry and a large crowd. Forty-six cars entered, of which 40 qualified by recording a 75mph lap. The race was won by Ray Harroun, who was also creating history by not being accompanied by a mechanic but relied on rear-view mirrors, but only after chaotic and controversial scenes when second-placed Ralph Mulford lodged a protest, claiming Harroun had completed one lap too few. The protest was rejected but the debate continued for years. Harroun, who had retired at the end of the previous year but come back for this one outing, walked away with the $10,000 prize and never raced again. There was also the first of many Indy 500 fatalities when mechanic Sam Dickson was killed when Arthur Greiner hit a wall.

The Indy 500 had been included in the fledgling F1 championship in a bid to attract European drivers to the USA and visa versa. In that regard it was an almost complete failure, as the all-American entry for the last F1-inclusive event proved. That it was staged a day after the Monaco Grand Prix showed the folly of the plan. Jim Rathmann took an early lead but from halfway he and Rodger Ward were locked battle, Rathmann eventually winning thanks to his better nursing of his tyres. The race featured the most recorded lead changes in Indy 500 history.

Niki Lauda's Ferrari led home seven Fords - with the six wheels of Tyrrell making up the podium - in the Monaco Grand Prix as he took a firm hold on the drivers' championship - it was his fourth win in the first six grands prix with the other two seeing him finish second. At the end he led the championship with 51 points, Clay Regazzoni his nearest challenger on 15. "The battle is virtually over," reported the Times - how wrong they were. In a bid to avoid a crash on the opening corner, officials used yellow flags from the off; the strategy failed as Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones collided in front of the marshals and retired.

Thirty-six year old Graham Hill secured the third of his five wins in the Monaco Grand Prix, but was chased all the way by defending champion John Surtees whose Ferrari ran out of fuel at the very end. It was Australian Paul Hawkins who grabbed the headlines when he became only the second, and to date last, man to drive into the harbour. After 79 laps he lost control of his privately-entered Lotus at the chicane, and it crashed through the straw bales and into the water. Fortunately, he extricated himself from the car as it sank and swam to safety.

Miki Hakkinen's second of three successive wins at the Spanish Grand Prix helped him cut the gap on Michael Schumacher on his way to his second drivers' title. It was a 1-2 for McLaren, as David Coulthard took second, not helping himself when he overshot his pit crew on a fuel stop. It was a bad day for Jacques Villeneuve who overtook the Ferraris on the first lap but was forced to quit when his crew struggled to remove a loose wing to replace it, and then he stalled as his gears broke when he eventually tried to leave the pits.

While motor racing has claimed many victims, 39-year-old Carl Scarborough is unusual in that he died after a race, collapsing from heat exhaustion at the end of the Indy 500.

Bill Vukovich led the 1952 Indy 500 until mechanical failure eight laps from the end, but won in 1953 and 1954. In 1955 he held a 17-second lead a little over a quarter of the way through the race when he was hit as a result of another collision. His car became airbourne and cleared a safety wall before rolling several times and bursting into flames. He was the second man to die in the Indy 500 and the first in a FIA World Championship event.

Floyd Roberts became the first fatality at the Indy 500, and like Vukovitch he was the defending champion and crashed as a result of being hit as a result of another incident. It was reported Roberts intended retiring after the race, but after being clipped his car left the track and piled into a tree. He died of massive head injuries at the scene.

The opening lap of the Indy 500 was marked by a 15-car pile-up which left Pat O'Connor dead after his vehicle was sent 50 feet through the air and burst into flames on landing. Although he was incinerated in the blaze, it was discovered he had died instantly from a broken neck. This led to changes in the safety rules at the track. Ed Elisian, who had stopped his car and tried to save Vukovich three years earlier, was blamed for the accident and shunned by other drivers. He too died in a fire after a crash the following year.

Eight-time entrant at the Indy 500 and one-time runner-up Eddie Sachs was killed in a seven-car second-lap crash which also resulted in the death of rookie Dave MacDonald. Although Sachs' flame-proof suit saved him from the blaze, he died instantly from in juries sustained in the accident; MacDonald was not so fortunate, inhaling burning fuel and dying two hours later. It was the first time the race was stopped because of an accident and led to the replacement of petrol with methanol.