• December 9 down the years

Senna death crash investigator speaks out

What happened on December 9 in Formula One history?
The blackest day in F1 © Getty Images

The lid finally came off the simmering debate over who was to blame for the Ayrton Senna's fatal crash the previous May, with comments in a Sunday newspaper by lead investigator Professor Enrico Lorenzini. Steering failure of some form was until then the favoured explanation, but Lorenzini was quoted as saying: "The rod joining the steering wheel to the wheels was virtually sliced in half … it had been badly welded together about a third of the way down and could not stand the strain of the race. It seemed like the job had been done in a hurry but I can't say how long before the race. Someone had tried to smooth over the join following the welding. I have never seen anything like it." The debate went on for years but a criminal case in Italy ended with no blame attributed to any one individual.

Two years earlier and Senna escaped a ban predicted by many after the FIA gave him a suspended sentence following an incident after the Japan Grand Prix in which he thumped Eddie Irvine . The hearing heard that Irvine, in his first grand prix, had re-overtaken Senna, after being lapped and in an altercation two hours after the race ended in fisticuffs. "Irvine's attitude was extremely provocative and difficult," said FIA president Max Mosley. "But Senna also opened discussions in a very heated way. What happened cannot be allowed in the sport and there had to be a penalty." "He was completely out of control and needs to be reined in," Irvine said. "He thinks he is God's gift to racing drivers."

Born on this day in Wisconsin, Harry Miller was an influential and famous American race car builder, most active in the 1920s and 1930s. In the opinion of noted American racing historian Griffith Borgeson, Miller was "the greatest creative figure in the history of the American racing car". Cars built by Miller won the Indianapolis 500 nine times; three more instances were won by his engines running in other chassis. Miller cars accounted for no less than 83% of the Indy 500 fields between 1923 and 1928.

Ben Pon , born on this day in Amersfoort, was an established sports car racer when he entered the 1962 Dutch Grand Prix, but pushing an underpowered Porsche too hard he careered off the track, flipped and was thrown out, miraculously escaping with little more than a scratch. Chastised, he vowed never to race single seaters again. He continued to be active in sports cars until the late 1960s, and showing his versatility represented the Netherlands in skeet shooting at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. When he retired he set up a winery in California..

Ed Elisian , who was born in Oakland, California, and came to prominence at the 1955 Indianapolis 500 when he stopped his car in a futile attempt to help Bill Vukovich when Vukovich's car crashed and burned during the race. In August 1959, Elisian entered the USAC Indy car 200-mile (320 km) race at the "Milwaukee Mile," known in those days as Wisconsin State Fair Park. Driving a metallic green Watson-style roadster owned by Ernie Ruiz, he crashed on lap 29 when he spun in oil from A. J. Foyt's engine. The car hit the wall, rupturing the fuel cell, and rolled over. Some 60 gallons of fuel caught fire, and took over nine minutes to extinguish, and he was burned to death.

Doug Serrurier , born in Germiston in the Transvaal, took part in three South African Grands Prix between 1962 and 1965, only finishing once, 11th in 1963. He built a series of racing cars under the name of LDS, after his initials. The first was based on a Cooper, and later cars were based on Brabhams. The cars were raced mainly by Serrurier himself, and Sam Tingle.

Swiss-born Ernest Henry, the man who gave the world the double overhead camshaft, died alone in Paris.