HomeCar CultureCommentaryAnimated film examines 1955 Le Mans tragedy

Animated film examines 1955 Le Mans tragedy


Think for a moment about how many children were turned on to automotive culture by Pixar’s movie Cars, and then by that film’s successors. 

Might graphic novels and animated films be the way we educate our grandchildren and future generations to the lifestyle we so enjoy as car enthusiasts?

Consider that in 2016, Swiss artist Sando Garbo and his team created a 2-pound graphic novel version of Steve McQueen’s movie Le Mans. 

And now we learn that French filmmaker Quentin Baillieux has produced a 15-minute animated film Le Mans 1955 that explores the race during which cars crashed and went into the grandstands, killing more than 80 people.

The trailer for the movie has been released (see above).

“The 24 Hours of Le Mans, 1955. 300,000 spectators are watching from the sidelines,” the film’s synopsis notes. “It is 6:00 p.m. when Pierre Levegh’s car ploughs into the spectator stands, scattering the crowd with his car engine’s hot debris. It is a tragedy that will cost more than 80 lives. And yet, the race goes on.”

Baillieux told cartoonbrew.com that he was inspired to do his film after seeing a exhibition at the Louvre.

“I was struck by the beauty of the exhibited sports cars, especially a Jaguar which had competed in 1955 at Le Mans,” Baillieux said in his director’s notes. “I began researching the that event and two very contradictory photos appeared next to one another on my screen. On one side, the image of a tragedy: people in a panic, a blazing inferno behind them. Bodies were sprawled across the stadium. The photo beside it depicted delighted drivers celebrating their victory with champagne. How could these two images be linked? How can we live a moment so joyful in parallel to one so tragic?

“My desire to create this film was born from these questions – the need to find a link that can allow this juxtaposition of imagery to coexist. The tendency of man to destroy itself, forgetting its humanity while being consumed by its pride, its passion and feelings is the subject on which I wanted to delve into. It is the basis of my studies and my thoughts – and my desire to make this film.

“I endeavor to explain with empathy how it is possible for the drivers to continue and finish the race despite the tragedy. I wish to restore their humanity and acknowledge the contradictions and the gray areas.”

Among the key characters in the film is John Fitch, the American driver who was Levegh’s teammate.

Le Mans film, Animated film examines 1955 Le Mans tragedy, ClassicCars.com Journal
The start — actual photo (left) and animated movie version

Motorsports Hall announces 2019 class

The 2019 inductee class has been announced by the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Daytona Beach, Florida. Induction ceremonies are scheduled for March 11-12, 2019, during the heart of the racing season in northern Florida.

the 2019 class comprises:

•  Augie Duesenberg (historic class), who joins his brother Frederick (Class of 1997) after they built some of the greatest racing cars of their generation. Fred was the designer, Augie did the manufacturing. Their cars won the Indianapolis 500 in 1924, 1925 and 1927.

• Dario Franchitti (open wheel), a three-time Indy 500 winner and four-time Indy car season champion.

•  Phil Remington (sports cars), the engineer genius between Shelby American in the 1960s and later with Dan Gurney’s All American Racers for more than 40 years.

•  Don Schumacher (drag racing), a championship Funny Car racer who returned to the sport as a team owner and added 16 more NHRA titles.

•  Kevin Schwantz (motorcycles), a 25-time winner on the international Grand Prix circuit and a world champion in 1993. The FIM retired his No. 34 after his retirement from racing.

• Tony Stewart (stock cars), national champion in USAC midgets, Indy cars and NASCAR, and a two-time NASCAR champion as a team owner.  

• Linda Vaughn (at large), an enduring ambassador for the sport perhaps most famous as “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter” but also successful off the track in various businesses.

F1 cars gather for Silverstone Classic

More than 100 Grand Prix racing cars will take part in the 70 years of Silverstone Grands Prix showcase scheduled for July 20-22 as part of the Silverstone Classic vintage racing weekend in England, organizers have announced.

There will be a parade of cars from the first Silverstone International Grand Prix in 1948 as well as “retro races” with cars from the 1950s through the 1980s. A Legends of Modern F1 showcase also is planned.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. To be brutally frank, I’m sick to death of the ghoulish, never-ending recitative about LeMans ’55. The idea of disinterring this moldy corpse one more time throttles the imagination. I have a idea: why not put this kind of effort into Fangio/Nurburgring ’57, or Moss/Jenkinson Mille Miglia ’55 or Ray Harroun / Indianapolis? Why go endlessly over and over and over about a tragedy like this?

  2. I was at LeMans in1955 with one of only 5 All Course press passes (which I still possess) and have 10000 feet of 16mm black and white that has never been shown publicly.. I have scenes that NO one else could have
    and years later 1985 met with Fangio in Buenos Aires and he filled me in on what REALLY caused the disaster..The actual wreck scenes were stolen at the Kodak labs and were seen at most
    news spots. I knew they were mine because of the unique spot I had at the start/finish line..Because of my special pass I was standing on the parapet alone..


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