Tragedy at Spa: The 1960 Belgian Grand Prix

The field heads away for the start of the 1960 Belgian GP. (Photo: LAT Photographic)

It was still early days in Formula One when 19 drivers showed up at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in 1960 for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The weekend would turn out to be one of the darkest in F1’s history, with two drivers suffering serious injuries in practice and a further two more losing their lives during Sunday’s race.

Michael Taylor and Stirling Moss were both unable to make the race after both of their Lotus-Climax 18’s suffered hard crashes in practice on Friday, June 17 and Saturday, June 18.

Taylor was paralyzed in an incident Friday caused when a steering column weld failed on his Lotus while traveling at 160 mph, as reported by ESPN. Taylor would learn to walk again, and he successfully sued Lotus for the incident.

Meanwhile, Moss – who had already picked up a win in the season at Monaco – broke both of his legs as well as his nose in a crash Saturday triggered by an axle failure. Moss’s wheel fell off and he spun off at high speed at Burnenville and crashed. Fortunately, Moss was able to return later in the season and win again at Riverside.

While Taylor and Moss were able to recover from their injuries, Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were both killed in separate incidents during Sunday’s Grand Prix on June 19.

Jack Brabham was up front dominating the race, and would eventually emerge the victor after 36 laps.

However, on Lap 20 Chris Bristow lost control while battling the Ferrari of Willy Mairesse. Bristow’s Cooper-Climax T51 spun off course and into some trackside fencing, where he was decapitated.

Just five laps later near the same place where Bristow had crashed, fellow British racing driver Alan Stacey was killed as he lost control of his Lotus-Climax 18 after hitting a bird near Burnenville. Stacey was thrown from his car in the incident.

The race would be remembered as the darkest weekend in Formula One history until the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, where Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger lost their lives.

Jack Brabham won the race, but podium ceremonies were subdued. (Photo: LAT Photographic)