• June 11 down the years

Motor racing's darkest day

Pierre Levegh's body lies on the track after his fatal accident © Getty Images

The worst accident in the history of motor racing occurred on this day during the third hour of the Le Mans 24-Hour when Pierre Levegh's Mercedes clipped the back of Lance Macklin's Austin-Healy as it swerved to avoid Mike Hawthorn's Jaguar, sending it flying through the air and into an earth bank on the side of the track. It hit with such force that the Mercedes came apart, scattering pieces into the crowd where it cut through them. The main body of the car also caught fire, spraying spectators with burning fuel and magnesium. More than 80 people in the crowd were killed as well as Levegh, but the authorities let the race continue, fearing chaos if they called it off. Mercedes withdrew eight hours later but Jaguar did not and Hawthorn went on to win. Mercedes withdrew from all racing at the end of the season and Jaguar also wound up its team.

Fernando Alonso moved closer to the world title with victory at the British Grand Prix, his 14th successive top-three finish. "So far it has been fantastic, five wins and three seconds," he said. "There is nothing more to find in the car. We are running on the limit of the car and there are no mechanical problems. It is a fantastic job from all the people in the team. Many believed it signalled the beginning of the end of Jenson Button's career - he lasted 18 minutes before he was forced out - while earlier in the day Lewis Hamilton, being talked about as the next big British thing, roared to victory in the GP2 race.

The Canadian Grand Prix ended in farce as hundreds of fans burst through fences to celebrate the maiden win of Ferrari's Jean Alesi in his 91st race. He had taken the lead 12 laps from the end when Michael Schumacher's Benetton was forced to pit stuck in third gear. "When I took the lead I started to cry in the car," Alesi said. "I have never driven a car as good as the one I have this season. I have had some very good times with Ferrari, and some very bad times, and today all the bad times are forgotten."

The dashing Jo Bonnier was killed, also at the Le Mans 24-Hour, when his Lola collided with a Ferrari in the night, ploughing into pine trees and cutting a 200-yard swathe through them as his car disintegrated. He had first entered F1 in 1956 and raced for a variety of teams, recording one win at the 1959 Dutch Grand Prix.

Jimmy Davies, who finished third at the 1955 Indianapolis 500, was killed in a midget crash at Santa Fe Speedway in Chicago. On the same day another leading American driver who drove twice in the Indy 500, Jud Larson, died at Reading Speedway in Pennsylvania when racing side-by-side with Red Reigel - the pair collided, both cars started somersaulting and both men were killed.