Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Death of Peter Collins

The British drivers Peter Collins (above), Mike Hawthorne and Tony Brooks formed a caravan in the lead of the German Grand Prix in 1958. "I knew that I had to get sufficiently far ahead of Peter and Mike on that eleventh lap to prevent them from catching me on the straight, where the Ferraris were considerably faster than the Vanwall," Brooks said. The red cars fought to keep up with Brooks as they ground into a tricky serpentine stretch known as the Pflantzgarten. All three crested a hill in third gear. They touched the brakes and shifted to second as the cars caught air on the downslope. After a dip they accelerated up a short, steep rise leading to a right hand turn. From his rear position Hawthorne could see that Collins was entering the bend too fast and too wide. Collins tried to swing his car back into line but it was too late. The rear wheel hit a low embankment on the left side of the road. Hawthorne braced himself for collision: he expected Collins to bounce off the embankment and spin across the road. But he didn't. Instead the car flipped in the air and landed upside down in a cloud of dust.


  1. Peter Collins was one of the best sportsmen the sport ever saw. There are many stories of his grace and good nature, but the best of course is the fact that he once handed Fangio his car after Fangio's had broken, so the Argentinian could finish a race and secure his championship despite the fact that had Collins stayed in the race, he would have been champion instead. Now that is a magnanimous gesture! His death was a real loss of a talented driver and a gentleman.

  2. I agree. Among other things, he took a genuine pleasure in the sport. In the course of my research and reporting Dirty Sunday, I have had the pleasure of speaking periodically with his widow, Louise King. In fact, believe it or note, I'm having lunch with her tomorrow!

  3. I saw Peter Collins twice shortly before his death, at Oulton Park and Silverstone, It was at the Oulton meeting where he and Tony Brooks gave demo runs in the pre-war Mercedes GP cars that I saw him at close quarters in the paddock,the memory of which I can still recall in graphic detail half a century later,and a few years later meeting a couple of tracksiders who witnessed his accident at the Ring,describing the sequence of events that resulted in such a tragic outcome .