• May 1 down the years

The death of a legend

What happened on May 1 in Formula One history?
Ayrton Senna's car after his fatal crash at Imola © Getty Images
Enlarge

1994
The death of Ayrton Senna at Imola haunted Formula One for a number of years and led to sweeping changes to safety within the sport. Senna spent the morning of the race meeting with fellow drivers to discuss demands for improvements to track safety following the accident the day before which killed Roland Ratzenberger. He had warned at the start of the season changes to the rules meant there would be "lots accidents and I'll risk saying we'll be lucky if something really serious doesn't happen". Visibly affected by Ratzenberger's crash, he was advised by Professor Sid Watkins not to race. "There are certain things over which we have no control," he replied. "I cannot quit. I have to go on." On the seventh lap Senna crashed into a concrete wall at 160mph and was killed almost instantly.

1898
Motor racing's first fatality when the Marquis de Montaignac lost control and swerved in front of a car driven M. de Montariol, forcing it up a bank where it overturned. The driver escaped but his mechanic was crushed. de Montaignac turned to see what had happened, lost control again, and rolled his car. His mechanic died instantly, de Montaignac a few hours later, by which time he had admitted full responsibility for the accident.

1988
Six years before his death and Senna had dominated the San Marino Grand Prix with a flag-to-flag victory which also showed the dominance of McLaren. Team-mate Alain Prost was swallowed by the pack after a poor start, but he was back in second by the eighth lap and from then on the pair were unchallenged, lapping the rest of the field. Senna had to content with a brake problem which squirted smoke into his cockpit as well as a loose brake-lever. World champion Nelson Piquet, who finished third, was asked afterwards if anyone could rival the McLarens. "We have a saying in Brazil," he shrugged. "Hope is the last thing that dies."

1955
Mike Nazaruk was killed in a sprint race at Langhorne when he lost control of his Nyquist Special which careered through a fence and rolled several times. Nazaruk was thrown more than 150 yards from the wreck and was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital. He had been suffering from flu and was advised not to compete. "Aw, I need the money," he replied. "One day my dad went to a race and never came back," his eight-year-old daughter said.

1983
More than half the 26 starters failed to finish the San Marino Grand Prix on a surface that fell apart as the race wore on. Patrick Tambay in a Ferrari won after making the best of the many pit stops. Riccardo Patrese threw away an early lead when he overshot his pit, but caught Tambay's misfiring Ferrari, only to spin off.

1928
Desmond Titterington, born in Belfast, began racing in Ulster in 1950 in privately-bought cars, branching out into European competition and then racing under the Ecurie Ecosse flag where success in a Jaguar secured him a factory drive in 1955. From there he moved to Mercedes and with his reputation on the up, he made the move to Formula One. In his first outing at Oulton Park in September 1955 he came third behind Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn, and in 1956 he continued to impress. At the International Trophy he came second with former university colleague Archie Scott Brown, and soon after his one F1 championship appearance came at Silverstone but he failed to finish when his engine gave up. He retired at the end of the season to concentrate on his yarn and supplies business in Ulster, but in 1972 as the troubles grew worse he sold up and moved to Scotland.

1972
Emerson Fittipaldi in a Lotus won the Monday Spanish Grand Prix, moving to the top of the drivers' championship along with Denny Hulme, who retired with gearbox trouble.

1951
Warwickshire-born Geoff Lees was one of those drivers who had the ill fortune to be handed uncompetitive or unreliable cars when his chance in Formula One came, and it had been a hard and self-financed graft to get there. Between 1978 and 1982 he entered 12 races in eight different cars, qualifying five times (in five different chassis) and finishing three. In 1981 he won the European Formula Two crown, and frustrated by a lack of opportunities, he headed to Japan where he enjoyed a long career in F2, becoming a respected driver, winning the F2 title in 1983. In 1987 an unlikely lifeline was thrown his way when, aged 36, he was recalled to test drive for Williams and, briefly, there seemed a chance he might get a drive.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Close