Your questions: crashed Ferrari, The Stig and a bridge that fell on a track

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Why did this Ferrari break in half?
Why did this Ferrari break in half?

Did terrorists blow up a bridge at a Grand Prix in the 1960s? Why did an old Ferrari F1 car snap in half? And where does ‘The Stig’ get its name from?

Answers to these and more of your questions below.

Bridge collapsing onto a track

Here’s an unusual question from Kim:

During the 60’s I believe, terrorists took out a pedestrian bridge during a formation lap and the bridge with people fell on the cars. What year and track was that?

There are a few instances of bridges falling onto tracks during races. I think the one you’re after is the sad incident at a Formula Junior race at Aix-le-Bains, France, in 1960. However, I’ve never heard any claims of foul play being involved.

The reports I’ve seen put the blame for the bridge collapse on the large number of people standing on the temporary structure. It came down across the circuit during the race.

One of the first drivers on the scene was Keith Ballisat in a car entered by Ken Tyrrell. He spun his car to a halt, avoiding the stricken spectators who had tumbled from the bridge.

But Chris Threlfall was unable to avoid the wreckage and crashed into the remains of the bridge. He was killed, along with two other spectators.

The closest we have seen to anything like this in modern Formula 1 is probably the occasion in 2000 when advertising hoardings fell onto the track during qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, forcing the stoppage of the session.

1961/2 German Grand Prix

Alan is trying to identify a car from the German Grand Prix:

I have some old black and white negatives from a rainy 1961/62 Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Cannot for the life of me pin down car #28 make and driver despite multiple searches.

I haven’t seen the pictures, but my dog-eared “Grand Prix Data Book” tells me the number 28 car in 1961 was a Cooper-Climax T53 driven by Jackie Lewis and in 1962 a Lotus-BRM 24 piloted by Heinz Schiller. Would be interested to see the pics if you can share them (use the or email if you prefer).

Lewis Hamilton pictures

Hamilton fan Jackie writes:

Hi there I was wondering if you can help me I am doing a file on Lewis Hamilton. Do you know where I can get GP2 photos of Lewis Hamilton driving in races at the different tracks?

I get a lot of questions for pictures of drivers, particularly Hamilton. With that in mind I’ve started updating the driver biographies sections to include more pictures of them, starting with Hamilton. Here’s the updated section on Hamilton plus lots of pictures of him in GP2 in 2006.

The Stig

Texan F1 fan has a Top Gear-ish question:

Not really an F1 question but maybe you can answer it? So, The Stig is the test driver on Top Gear, right? Where did that name come from? Does it mean something that Americans might not “get”? I have seen some Top Gear shows on YouTube, but I’m out of the loop.

It’s well know that the original black-suited Stig was former Andrea Moda F1 driver Perry McCarthy. In his autobiography “Flat out, flat broke” he claimed The Stig was originally going to be called The Gimp, because of the all-back outfit.

After he refused to get stuck with such a dubious name they settled on The Stig, which was a nickname presenter Jeremy Clarkson remembered from school.

Ferrari snapped in half

Aaron spotted this astonishing picture:

Federico Kroymans in a crashed 1999 Ferrari F399 at Laguna Seca
Federico Kroymans in a crashed 1999 Ferrari F399 at Laguna Seca

I stumbled across this picture and thought you’d be my best bet to tell me who it was. It looks quite astonishing though.

There’s a lot of speculation about exactly what happened to this 1999-spec Ferrari F399. What is known is that it was driven by Dutchman Federico Kroymans in a demonstration event at Laguna Seca in California five years ago. He crashed at turn six and went into the barriers at around 66mph (106kph).

Any F1 fan who’s seen the picture will be astonished by how a comparatively low-speed impact did such serious damage to a relatively recent car.

Did the car have some pre-existing damage to the chassis that was not repaired? There was speculation that the chassis might be the same one Michael Schumacher crashed at Silverstone in 1999, breaking his leg.

But this seems unlikely. There is another suggestion that Kroymans made modifications to the car himself in order to accommodate his tall frame (which is clearly evident in this picture). This could have weakened the car’s ability to withstand impacts.

Today heritage Ferrari F1 cars are run by the company’s Corse Clienti division. This was who supplied the F2007 that Michael Schumacher drove at Mugello recently.

There’s some more pictures of the car here and here.

Send in your questions – and answers

If you can help add to any of these answers please post a comment below.

And if you?ve got an F1 question of your own please send them in – you can email me, contact me on Twitter or leave a comment.

Your questions answered

More of your questions answered

42 comments on “Your questions: crashed Ferrari, The Stig and a bridge that fell on a track”

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  1. Re: The Stig – our friend from Texas can read more about The Stig on Wikipedia:

    It’s interesting that the name is a Clarkson schoolboy reference, and seemingly nothing to do with this guy:


  2. Max should resign now!!!
    10th August 2009, 8:29

    Hi I didn’t even know about that bridge accident so i googled it and I found this site which has some more info on that, I’ll just copy what it says:

    Here’s the link btw

    A temporary wooden footbridge over the street track at Aix-les-Bains, jammed with auto-race fans collapsed and fell over the road blocking it, just before a racer hurtled into their midst. The unfortunate driver Chris Threlfall hit the remains of the bridge with his Elva Formula Junior. He and four spectators were killed instantly. Two other spectators died in the hospital shortly before midnight, twenty of the about 50 injured were hospitalized. Among the deceased spectators was Mr. Ali Abbar-Lari, an Iranian diplomat stationed in Genève, the other victims were all of French nationality.

    The drivers had covered only three laps of the Formula Junior race in the road course, when Trevor Taylor who led the race in a Lotus – Ford, and Dutch Lex Beels, second in a Cooper – DKW flashed under the bridge. Suddenly the wooden structure buckled and plunged to the roadway in a burst of dust, in front of the third car, driven by Threlfall arriving at about 140 km/h. His head was smashed against the dashboard as he vainly tried to brake and to avoid hitting the timbers and people sprawled on the road. The other drivers behind him swerved and braked frantically and managed to stop in time, four of them plowed into the wreckage. The American driver Carrol Smith who followed Threlfall, was slightly injured.

    The race was immediately stopped, and no results were declared. Another motorcycle competition, scheduled in the same circuit four days later was cancelled.

    The wooden overpass had been erected for the benefit of race officials and reporters, spectators found it a good vantage point to see the racers, although vain pleased by policemen and the race announcer to clear it because it was too crowded and overloaded. But in their excitement the fans apparently forgot to be careful.

    It is not clear whether the Elva 100 driven by Threlfall was powered by a BMC, a DKW/Mitter engine or a Ford engine.

    Four years before, on 20 May 1956, Chris Threlfall’s Tojeiro – Bristol collided with another car during the Grand Prix des Frontières at Chimay and five spectators standing in a prohibited area were killed.

  3. That F399 is clearly a “cut and shut” case… ;-)

    1. Yeah, it’s such a clean break that I would be amazed if that wasn’t the case…

  4. I always thought The Stig was a reference to the eponymous character in “Stig of the Dump”, a children’s book about a modern-day caveman, which was certainly on the reading list of my South Yorkshire (but not Repton) junior school.

    1. That’s what I thought too…

      1. From

        The Stig’s name is derived from presenter Jeremy Clarkson’s days at Repton School; where, according to Clarkson, new students were always called “Stig”. A proposed name for the Stig was originally “The Gimp” until protests from Perry McCarthy put a stop to the idea.

  5. I haven’t seen the pictures, but my dog-eared “Grand Prix Data Book” tells me the number 28 car in 1961 was a Cooper-Climax T53 driven by Jackie Lewis and in 1962 a Lotus-BRM 24 piloted by Heinz Schiller.

    I looked this up in my Complete Book of Formula One, by Mark Hughes and Simon Arron, which has photos of every driver/car to have qualified for an F1 GP since 1950.

    Lewis wore what appears to be a white helmet with a horizontal stripe just above the visor and a vertical stripe along the centreline. His Cooper appears to be black (or dark blue) with a thick white stripe down the centre. The picture was taken at the 1961 Belgian GP so some features may have changed.

    Schiller was Swiss and his helmet design appears to be that of the Swiss flag, i.e. red with a white cross. His Lotus was all one colour with the traditional round yellow Lotus badge on the nose. The picture in the book was taken at the German GP so should be fairly spot on.

    Hope that helps, the book is very good and I’d strongly recommend it. There are a few pictures missing – provide one and you get a free copy of the next edition.

  6. Wow, that Ferrari image is scary.

    1. It reminds me of Stan Fox’s crash in the Indy 500 in the early 90’s.

      He had to go through months of therapy after this, as you can imagine, but it is remarkable that he even survived.

    2. Casino Square
      10th August 2009, 14:25

      If a car from the late 90’s could be that fragile, even if they did make some modifications, then imagine what sort of destruction there would have been had one of those cars had an accident like Kubica’s at Montreal in 2007. That really is scary.

  7. Did the car have some pre-existing damage to the chassis that was not repaired?

    F1 cars are only built to last a race weekend – anything more than that and they’re overweight, as Colin Chapman might have said. Between races, cars will be dismantled and rebuilt with most components being crack tested and replaced as needed. Even microscopic cracks can lead to serious failures if not repaired/replaced.

    I went on a tour of the Tyrrell factory years ago when it was still operational. One of things that still sticks in my mind was the size of the crack testing facility. One of the problems with running an old F1 car is that it needs the same, if not more, attention to run it safely and reliably. It’s expensive and some people may be tempted to cut corners.

    The F399 chassis appears to have split very neatly. Carbon fibre chassis are sometimes made in sections which are then glued together. I wonder whether this F399 was not properly maintained, hence such a neat split. Is there any video footage of the crash? Is it clear that the impact caused the split and not the other way round?

    1. Found this on skippyforums

      I was sitting under a tree at the exit of turn 6 and saw the whole thing. He wasn’t going that fast, got on the throttle too early and spun to the inside and hit the right front on the inside tire wall. It wasn’t that hard of a hit. It was scarry to see the driver sitting there with his legs hanging out, totally exposed. I’m glad the corner workers got the rest of the cars slowed down. The driver was Federico Kroymans, the Ferrari and Maserati importer for the Netherlands, the car is a F399. He was able to get himself out of the car and limp around. He is tall and a bit overweight, so I wonder if they modified the monoque for him to fit. It was a clean break at the bulkhead where the steering wheel attaches. I didn’t take any pictures, it seemed kinda sick to…

    2. Also…

      Here is the picture of the Ferrari after Schumachers crash. Looks very familiar, coincidence?

      1. Why’s the rear wing missing though?

      2. Looks very familiar, coincidence?

        Probably. Schumacher’s crash was more or less head on and the chassis shows considerable front end damage. But the picture shows that the damage didn’t extend as far back as the F399 crashed at Laguna, where the chassis appears to have snapped cleanly by the front of the cockpit. Besides, from the report you pasted, it doesn’t appear as if the Laguna crash was head on.

        1. Actually, on closer inspection, its true the damage Schumacher had was much further forward with the tub intact.

          Indeed, a glancing sideways blow by all accounts. Can’t help thinking you might be right about the chassis splitting first and hence causing the spin.

  8. pseudohendrix
    10th August 2009, 9:54

    I’m sure that a bridge collapsed on the formation lap of a sportscar race in the 1970s at Angola. My memory is fuzzy and I have no idea where I heard of this incident but I think there is also footage out there and I seem to remember it had something to do with terrorists.

    1. That’s the one I was thinking of – northern Africa. The spectator bridge was messed with all the nuts were loosened / removed.

  9. I love the GP2 LH pictures. He hasn’t changed at all (apart from his hair) – still the same killer smile and good looks.

    BTW, if you go to and search for pics under driver name, you can find pics going back to GP2. Or try flickr.

    Thanks Keith.

    1. Hi, S Hughes,

      I think you will love to watch Lewis in one of the best races in his career at GP2/2006. THIS is entertainment:

      1. Becken, thanks. I’ve sent it home so I can watch it later. I really appreciate it, thanks.

      2. Awesome! i’ve been looking for this for ages!!

    1. psesudohendrix
      10th August 2009, 11:02

      yup that’s the one. some outrageously uninformed comments under the video though!

    2. Wow had never seen it before! And that was a terror attack? Awful.

      1. One source in Portuguese suggest that it is not clear whether it was an attack or if the bridge just collapsed with too much weight.

        It was a sportscar race in Huambo, Angola in 1974.

  10. The Stig,

    If Clarkson’s remembers the Stig nick name from school, this was quite common, a Kids TV series where a ‘cave boy’ (young cave man) was living in modern day in a Dump and used cave man style survival techniques to build a hut from the rubbish and things like that- he was generally smeared in dirt and grunted a lot – so any skanky kids used to get called ‘Stig’


    1. Except that was on when I was a kid and I’m 27 – quite a bit younger in fact than Jeremy Clarkson.

      However the book was published in 1963 so would have been doing the rounds when young Jezza was at school…

  11. 5th Gear

    1. Haha, what?!

  12. F399: carbon fiber does not brake so neatly. Look at the paint job were it broke. Neat and straight all around.
    Like it was cut and joined back again; note also the white material at the cross section. Someone crazy enough to cut the body & join it again with fiberglass?
    Maybe; maybe the car was repaired and good for static display only

  13. I think Ranolim is correct, it was cut and lenghtened. I have a friend on myspace who was racing with him that day & told me about it a couple of years ago. Will try to contact him & get the story

  14. ferrari should have a better helmet to protect their drivers.

  15. WOW! that GP2 race was madness….why cant f1 be like that?

    Thanks for that Becken

  16. About the Ferrari:
    Modern F1 cars are not made like that.
    The monocoque (which is basicly the body from the nose just behind the front wing, to the engincover) is made from a top and bottom “glued” together. (Its a complicated process, but notnetheless..)
    This is done to have a structure that is as rigid as possible. Both in tearms of safety, and also for the basic handling of the car, if the monocoque was made like that F399 it would be flexible, and the handling would be terrible.

    Also, compare the crash of this F399 and Kubica’s crash in Canada 2007.

    On another forum, a poster speculated that the car was homemade from demo cars (like the ones you see at shopping malls and the like) and other parts. Or the hapless car dealer cut it up himself.
    But I am pretty sure that Ferari would not sell the monocoque from Schumachers crash to anyone. the other parts could be salvaged yes, but the monocoque is a write off, and crashed cars are very rarely sold.
    Not only is is embaresing for a manufacturer, but the structure would also be severly weekend, even if it survived the impact, and sometime it can be used for crash analysis (that is done in racing as well)

  17. I remember hearing that Ferrari shipped it back to Italy, possibly even under the instructions of Ross Brawn and checked out how it had failed?

  18. I am the racer referred to above that was also in the F1 Cliente group racing at Laguna Seca when the F399 crashed.

    Yes, the car had been lengthened to fit Kroymans’ larger frame–but not by the factory! It was a lousy approach to extending the car, building a little extension section. Hence the clean break (where it was bolted together.

    The factory refused to repair the car and just crated it up to go back to the factory (so went the talk around the paddock that day).

    Dealing with carbon fiber monocoques is an art and few are capable of doing it right (as you can see). Best to leave all of that work to the factory!

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