Length: 52 min
Format: HD 16:9
Language: German, French
Directed by: Thomas Ammann and Simone Jost-Westendorf
DoP: Klaus Sturm, Lee Christiansen, Oliver Jakob, Peter Reuther
TV co-producer: ZDF/ARTE, ZDF History
The catastrophe at the 24-hour race of Le Mans is a date in history that goes far beyond the world of motor racing. 11th June 1955 marks a turning point: there is motor racing before, and motor racing after. In the accident, caused by driver Pierre Levegh with his Mercedes “Silver Arrow”, more than 80 people died, and 200 were injured, some severely. It was a catastrophe that was burned into the collective memory, just as the air catastrophe at Ramstein in 1988 was; it created an inferno that traumatised eyewitnesses and survivors alike.
Over decades the exact sequence of events remained unclear. There were many rumours and suppositions, but no concrete proof. With the use of an amateur film that was recently rediscovered, this documentary succeeds in accurately reconstructing the course of events,
leaving no shadow of doubt as to what actually took place.
To this day, Le Mans remains the most tragic event in the history of the sport of motor racing, but it is also an image of an epoch. The film recounts the event against the background of the economic and political rapprochement between the European neighbouring countries France and Germany in the 1950s. The war has only been over for a decade when it comes to a showdown at Le Mans between the British (Jaguar) and the Germans (Mercedes Silver Arrow) on French territory. That is also another reason why the cause and blame for this tragedy remained in the dark for so long.