SportF1The tragic death of Tom Pryce in Kyalami (South...

The tragic death of Tom Pryce in Kyalami (South Africa) 1977

Tom Pryce was born on June 11, 1949 in Ruthin, Wales. As a young man, on his family farm, his hero was Jim Clark. He started racing relatively late, aged 20, but after a strong start in Formula Ford 1600, he moved on to Formula 3 and then Formula 2 with the Rondel team of Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle.

Tom Pryce, UOP Shadow Racing Team

At the age of 25, Pryce made his Formula 1 debut at the wheel of a Token Racing single-seater; the first F1 car designed by Rondel, but immediately sold to Tony Vlassopulos and Ken Grob.

When Token’s adventure ended in mid-1974, he passed Shadow and, despite his inexperience, he shone in the rankings, sometimes equaling Niki Lauda and James Hunt. However, Pryce was very impetuous and often dropped out of the race due to accidents.

In 1975 and 1976, he was still driving for Shadow. In 1975, he won the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. Although he qualified relatively well, Pryce still failed frequently (it should be noted that Shadow’s cars were not the most reliable), but he finished third in Austria in 1975 and third again in Brazil in 1976.

Tom Pryce, Token RJ02

After a difficult start in 1977 that saw them miss the first two rounds of the World Championship, the Shadow team, made up of Pryce and Renzo Zorzi, made their debut at the South African Grand Prix. The Welshman qualified 15th but faltered at the start and dropped to 22nd. He started to come back and by lap 22 he was already 13th behind Hans-Joachim Stuck’s March.

It was at these moments that Zorzi stopped his car just after the climb at the beginning of the long straight. Gasoline sprayed his Ford engine and started a fire. At that moment, two marshals crossed the track, breaking the rule not to do so. The second carried a heavy fire extinguisher.

The climb blocked the view of the pilots, who suddenly encountered the accident and the maneuvers to put it out. Stuck and Price were heading towards the area at more than 270 km/h and while the first managed to avoid them, Pryce was covered by the March’s wing, so he could not see anything and had no time to react. He hit the second commissioner, Jansen Van Vuuren, who was thrown and died on the spot.

Tom Pryce, Shadow DN8

The fire extinguisher hit Pryce’s head, ripping off his helmet and roll bar, killing the pilot instantly. The entire scene was being broadcast live on television.

However, the statistics do not paint an exact picture of Pryce. He was a brave driver, very talented, very determined, unbeatable in the wet and always correct on the track. Is it necessary to remember how immensely cruel Formula 1 was in those days?

We remember other drivers sadly deceased during Formula 1 races

(Click on ‘Full version’ at the end of the article if you can’t see the photos or their information)

Charles de Tornaco

Charles de Tornaco

1 / 27
De Tornaco died on September 18, 1953 at the age of 26 when he lost control of his car in one of the high curves of the Modena circuit (Italy). The vehicle overturned, causing serious head and neck injuries to the Belgian driver, who died on the way to hospital.

Photo by: LAT Images

Onofre Marimon

Onofre Marimón

2 / 27
Onofre Agustín Marimón died on July 31, 1954 at the age of 30 at the Nürburgring. The Argentine driver died after losing control of his car in practice for the German Grand Prix.

Photo by: LAT Images

luigi muso

Luigi Musso

3 / 27
Luigi Musso died on July 6, 1958 at the age of 33 at the Reims circuit, France, when he crashed his Ferrari on the tenth lap of the race.

Photo by: LAT Images

peter collins

Peter Collins

4 / 27
Peter Collins died on August 3, 1958 at the age of 26 when he crashed at the Nürburgring during the 11th lap of the German GP. The British pilot became the second pilot to die that year.

Photo by: LAT Images

Stuart Lewis Evans

Stuart Lewis-Evans

5 / 27
In fact, Stuart Lewis-Evans died on October 25, 1958, also at the age of 28. The British driver suffered a serious accident in the Moroccan GP on lap 41 when the engine of his Vanwall stopped working, taking him towards the barriers. On impact, his car caught fire and he suffered serious burns all over his body. He was transferred to England where he died six days later.

Photo by: LAT Images

Alan Stacy

Alan Stacey

6 / 27
Alan Stacey died on June 19, 1960, at the age of 26, in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. The British driver suffered an accident after a bird collided into his face on lap 25 of the Belgian Grand Prix, causing Stacey to lose control and hit Chris Bristow.

Photo by: LAT Images

Chris Bristow

Chris Bristow

7 / 27
As a result of that action, 22-year-old Bristow himself also lost his life that day. The accident caused him to spin several times until he reached a barbed wire, which decapitated him.

Photo by: LAT Images

Wolfgang von Trips

Wolfgang von Trips

8 / 27
Wolfgang von Trips passed away on September 10, 1961 at the age of 33 in Monza, Italy. The German driver was killed after colliding with Jim Clark, an incident that caused von Trips’ car to fly and he was thrown. His car returned to the track hitting Clark’s, which lost control and went off the track and ended up against a group of spectators, among whom 15 people died. Clark survived the accident.

Photo by: LAT Images

Ricardo Rodriguez

Ricardo Rodríguez

9 / 27
Ricardo Rodríguez died on November 1, 1962 at the age of 20 at the Magdalena Mixiuhca Circuit (today the Hermanos Rodríguez Autodrome) in Mexico City. The Mexican pilot died in the Peraltada of the Azteca circuit when a failure in the right rear suspension caused him to crash into the barriers, killing himself immediately.

Photo By: Sutton Motorsport Images

Carel Godin de Beaufort

Carel Godin de Beaufort

10 / 27
Carel Godin de Beaufort died on August 2, 1964, at the age of 30. At the German Grand Prix, the Dutch driver lost control at the Bergwerk corner at the Nürburgring and was thrown from the car, suffering serious head, chest and leg injuries. He was transported to the hospital and passed away three days after the accident.

Photo by: David Phipps

John Taylor

John Taylor

11 / 27
John Taylor died on September 8, 1966, at the age of 33. The British driver collided with Jacky Ickx on the first lap of the German GP just as they approached the Quiddelbacher-Hohe corner at the Nürburgring. His car caught fire and, although he was able to get out of it, he died four weeks later from severe burns sustained in the accident.

Photo by: LAT Images

Lorenzo Bandini

Lorenzo Bandini

12 / 27

Lorenzo Bandini died on May 10, 1967, when he was 31 years old, in Monaco. The left rear tire of the Italian’s Ferrari hit the barrier, he lost control and was caught in the flames, from where he was rescued unconscious with third-degree burns on 70% of his body. He died three days later in hospital. His accident led to F1 banning the use of hay bales as safety barriers.

Photo by: LAT Images

Jo Schlesser

Jo Schlesser

13 / 27
Jo Schlesser died on July 7, 1968 at the age of 40 at the French Grand Prix when on the second lap he lost control of his car, which caught fire.

Photo by: LAT Images

Gerhard Mitter

Gerhard Mitter

14 / 27
Gerhard Mitter died on August 1, 1969 at the Nürburgring, aged 33. The local driver died when his car had a mechanical problem and lost control in one of the training sessions for the German Grand Prix.

Photo by: LAT Images

Piers Courage

Piers Courage

15 / 27
Piers Courage died on June 21, 1970 at the age of 28 in Zandvoort, the Netherlands. The British driver was killed when his car suffered a failure that caused him to shoot out of Tunnel Oost off the track, where a tire came off and hit him, removing his helmet. Courage suffered fatal head and neck injuries.

Photo by: LAT Images

jochen rindt

Jochen Rindt

16 / 27
Jochen Rindt passed away on September 5, 1970 at the age of 28 in Monza, Italy. The Austrian driver lost control at the Parabolica corner of the Italian circuit. Upon colliding with the barrier, his body went forward and one of the safety harness straps cut his neck. The medical bodies took him out of the car and took him to the hospital, where he died.

Photo by: LAT Images

Roger Williamson

Roger Williamson

17 / 27
Roger Williamson died on July 29, 1973, at the age of 25, in Zandvoort, the Netherlands. The Briton lost his life after a very strong impact against the barriers that caused his car to be overturned and on fire. His partner, David Purley, braked and tried to turn the car around, but could not. The stewards refused to help because they did not have fire-retardant clothing. Purley took a fire extinguisher from them, but it wasn’t enough. 8 minutes passed and the fire engine arrived, they brought the fire under control and turned the car around only to find Williamson dead.

Photo by: LAT Images

Francois Cevert

François Cevert

18 / 27
François Cevert passed away on October 6, 1973 at the age of 29 in Watkins Glen, New York. The Frenchman lost control of his car in “The Esses” sector during qualifying, suffering a heavy impact on the barriers which caused fatal head injuries.

Photo by: LAT Images

Helmuth Koinigg

Helmuth Koinigg

19 / 27
Helmuth Koinigg passed away exactly one year after Cevert, also at Watkins Glen, aged 25. The Austrian had a problem with the suspension of his car during the United States GP, losing control at turn 6 and crashing into the lower metal barriers, which were not well placed and allowed the car to pass. Koinigg’s bad luck was that the upper barriers did stay in place, decapitating the pilot.

Photo by: LAT Images

Mark Donohue

Mark Donohue

20 / 27

Mark Donohue passed away on August 19, 1975 at the age of 38 during the Austrian GP. The American had a problem with one of his wheels and was thrown into the Voëst-Hugel corner suffering a very hard blow to the head. The impressive thing was that the American came out of the accident on his own feet. However, later he began to experience a severe headache that increased as time went on. The next day he was admitted to hospital in Graz, where he fell into a coma due to a brain hemorrhage that led to his death.

Photo by: LAT Images

Tom Pryce

Tom Pryce

21 / 27
Tom Pryce passed away on March 5, 1977 at the age of 27 in Kyalami, South Africa. The British pilot died instantly, being semi-decapitated by the tape on his helmet after the pilot ran over and killed a 19-year-old marshal named Jansen Van Vuuren when he was traveling at about 270km/h. Van Vuuren was crossing the track to put out the fire in the car of Italian Renzo Zorzi and his fire extinguisher hit Pryce directly on the head.

Photo By: Sutton Motorsport Images

Ronnie Peterson

Ronnie Peterson

22 / 27

Ronnie Peterson passed away on September 11, 1978 at the age of 34 at the Italian GP. The Swede was involved in a multiple accident that caused 10 leg fractures and was taken to hospital where he suffered kidney failure during the night as a result of an embolism, which led to his death.

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Gilles Villeneuve

Gilles Villeneuve

23 / 27

Gilles Villeneuve died on May 8, 1982, at the age of 32, due to an accident during qualifying for the Belgian GP. The Canadian collided at more than 200 km / h in the back of Jochen Mass’s car, being thrown into the air several meters. Upon landing, his seat became unstuck and was sent against the guard rail. After the incident he was transported to the hospital, where he died from very severe injuries to his neck.

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Riccardo Paletti

Riccardo Paletti

24 / 27

Ricardo Paletti passed away on June 13, 1982 at the age of 23 in Montreal, Canada. The Italian collided at just over 180km/h with the rear of the poleman, Didier Pironi, whose car did not start and was stranded on the track. Because of the blow, Paletti suffered chest injuries that ended his life hours later at the Royal Victoria hospital.

Photo by: LAT Images

Roland Ratzenberger

Roland Ratzenberger

25 / 27
Roland Ratzenberger passed away on April 30, 1994 at the age of 33, in Imola, Italy. The Austrian driver crashed at high speed at the Villeneuve Bend during qualifying, sustaining life-ending injuries.

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch

Ayrton senna

Ayrton Senna

26 / 27

Ayrton Senna died on May 1, 1994, one day later, at the age of 34. At the San Marino GP, the Brazilian driver went off the track at the Tamburello corner while leading, impacting at around 200km/h on the right side of the car. Several parts of the car hit Senna’s head and that, together with a hemorrhage from an artery, resulted hours later in the death of what is considered by many to be the best driver in F1 history.

Photo by: XPB Images

jules bianchi

Jules Bianchi

27 / 27

Jules Bianchi passed away on July 17, 2015, at the age of 25, in Nice, France. Nine months earlier, on October 5, 2014, the French driver went off the track in the rain at Suzuka during the Japanese GP, crashing right under a crane that was removing Adrian Sutil’s car. That crash caused serious injuries to his head and mainly to his brain, which kept him in a coma for 9 months until his death on Gallic soil. This fatality, the last in the top flight, was the first in two decades for an F1 driver after Senna’s in 1994.

Photo by: WRI2

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