This was not a fatal crash

A moment of photographic brilliance and bloodcurdling terror from the 1914 American Grand Prize in Santa Monica shows the sheer violence of the early days of motor racing, which, in this dramatic and fortunate case, did not turn out to be deadly.

When the United States Grand Prix will return to the racing calendar next year after a four-year absence, it will be celebrating its 104th anniversary. This is what the early days looked like. Pictured is a certain John Marquis driving a Sunbeam who crashed out of the 1914 race, which was held on a 8.4-mile track whose start-finish straight paralleled the Pacific Ocean, according to Doug Nye’s The United States Grand Prix and Grand Prize Races, 1908-1977.


This photo of Marquis’s crash was turned into a painting, and painter David Folland has described the accident thus:

John B. Marquis’s strategy was to fuel his car heavy to run the race non-stop. He was leading when taking Death Curve too fast. The Sunbeam rolled three times. Mechanician Harry Hough was thrown clear, but Marquis lay unconscious under the car. Fortunately, the weight of the car was not resting on Marquis. It was thought that he had been killed, but on admission to hospital, miraculously, he had not broken a bone, and thus he survived to drive another day.


Photo Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

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