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1960 Auto Racing Highlights

World Speed Record Attempts

There were five attempts made to break the world land speed record in 1960, but the mark of 394.1 m.p.h. set by John Cobb of England in 1947 remained standing.

Athol Graham was killed when he crashed at 300 m.p.h. in a try for the record in a home-made car on August 1.

Mickey Thompson attained 406.6 m.p.h. in his Pontiac-powered Challenger I in one run across the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on September 9, but two runs in opposite directions are required for an official record and Thompson's car broke down during the second run.

Donald Campbell escaped serious injury when his multimillion-dollar Bluebird II went out of control while traveling across the Bonneville Salt Flats at 365 m.p.h. on September 16.

Bluebird II after Donald Campbell's 365-mph crash.
Bluebird II after the crash

Nathan Ostich and Art Afrons both failed in their attempts to break the world land speed record due to mechanical troubles.


Several leading international drivers suffered fatal injuries while driving in, or practising for, competition in 1960.

Harry Blanchard of Greenwich, Connecticut, lost his life when he crashed in the Buenos Aires, Argentina, race on January 31.

The March 25 Sebring, Florida, race claimed the life of Jim Hughes of Napa, California, who flipped on a turn. The accident also cost the life of photographer George Thompson, who was hit by the car.

Argentine driver Pedro von Dory was fatally injured in the USAC Road Racing Championship Race at Riverside, California, on April 3.

Harry Schell, an American living in Paris, was killed while practising for a race at Silverstone, England on May 13.

Harry Schell
Harry Schell

Chris Threlfall of England was killed instantly on the Aix-les-Bains course in France on May 22 when a temporary bridge over the track collapsed in the path of his car. Six persons on the bridge were also killed.

Aftermath of the accident which claimed the life of Chris Threlfall and six spectators.
aftermath of Threlfall's accident

West Coast champion sports-car driver Sammy Weiss was killed on the Alguna Seca track on June 4.

Three-time National Driving Champion Jimmy Bryan of Phoenix, Arizona, skidded and flipped on the race course at Langhorne, Pennsylvania, on June 19 and was killed instantly after being thrown from his car.

Jimmy Bryan being thrown from his car at Langhorne.
fatal crash of Jimmy Bryan

Chris Bristow of England suffered fatal injuries during the Belgian Grand Prix on June 19 when his car went out of control on a curve, rolled up and over an embankment, and went through a barbed wire fence. Alan Stacey lost his life during the same race when he went off the track about 100 feet from the scene of Bristow's accident.

Alan Stacey
Alan Stacey

Indianapolis 500

Jim Rathmann won the 44th Indianapolis 500 (on Monday, May 30) with a record average speed of 138.757 m.p.h. He finished 12 seconds ahead of the 1959 winner, Rodger Ward, to take home a record winner's purse of $110,000.

Jim Rathmann
Jim Rathmann

Rathmann taking the checkered flag at Indianapolis.
Jim Rathmann taking the checkered flag

Two persons were killed and more than 70 were injured before the race began when a temporary grandstand collapsed [picture].

International Grand Prix

The winner of the 1960 World Drivers' Championship was decided when reigning champion Jack Brabham won his fifth consecutive Grand Prix race of the year in Portugal on August 14. He accomplished the feat driving a Cooper-Climax, a marque which also took the 1960 World Championship for Constructors by an overhwelming margin.

Brabham at the 1960 Portuguese Grand Prix.
Jack Brabham at the Portguese Grand Prix

Individual Race Winners

Date Race Driver Car
February 7...... Argentine....... Bruce McLaren.. Cooper
May 29........... Monaco......... Stirling Moss...... Lotus
June 6............. Dutch............. Jack Brabham.... Cooper
June 19........... Belgian........... Jack Brabham.... Cooper
July 3.............. French........... Jack Brabham.... Cooper
July 16............ British............ Jack Brabham.... Cooper
August 14....... Portuguese..... Jack Brabham.... Cooper
September 4... European....... Phil Hill.............. Ferrari
November 20.. United States.. Stirling Moss...... Lotus

Le Mans 24-Hour Race

Two Belgians sharing the wheel of a Ferrari won the 24 Hours at Le Mans, held on June 25-26. Olivier Gendebein and Paul Frere covered 2,619 miles at an average speed of 109.128 m.p.h. The pair took the lead early in the race and held it from them on, finishing about 25 miles ahead of the second place Ferrari driven by Ricardo Rodriguez and Andre Pilette.


The 1960 NASCAR season began with the Daytona 500 on February 14. The race was won by Junior Johnson, who averaged 127.4 m.p.h. in a Chevrolet owned by Ray Fox.

Junior Johnson (in white, without a hat) celebrates his Daytona 500 win with car owner Ray Fox (to his immediate right) and some of his crew members.
Junior Johnson, car owner Ray Fox, and their team celebrate their Daytona 500 victory

Rex White (below), an offseason garage owner, finished in the top 10 in 34 races to win the Grand National Driving Championship, as well as a NASCAR record total of $45,055 in prize money.

Rex White

Pikes Peak Climb

The annual Independence Day Pikes Peak Climb was dominated in 1960 by the Unser brothers, who took two first places and a second in the 12-1/2-mile event. Bobby Unser, in a Pontiac Special, took the championship, for the third year in a row, in the record time of 13 minutes 28.5 seconds. Al Unser finished right behind his brother in the championship class. Lou Unser, in a stock Pontiac, finished first in the stock-car class in 15 minutes 36.6 seconds.

Bobby Unser at the 1960 Pikes Peak Climb.
Bobby Unser at the 1960 Pikes Peak Climb

Road America 500

Italian car maker Maserati gained considerable prestige in U.S. sports-car racing when two of its cars finished first and fourth in the Road America 500 at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, on September 11. The winning car, driven by Dave Causey and Luke Stear, finished the required 125 laps in 6 hours 14 minutes 55 seconds, averaging 80.021 m.p.h. The second place car, a Ferrari driven by Auggie Pabst and Bill Wuesthoff, was just 39 seconds behind them.


The annual 12-hour Grand Prix of Endurance at Sebring, Florida, on March 25, was boycotted by the Porsche official team cars, but Porsches still took first and second. Olivier Gendebein and Hans Hermann teamed up in a 1.6 Porsche to win the event by covering 196 laps in the alloted time. Second place went to a Porsche driven by Bob Holbert, Roy Schecter, and Howard Fowler.

Targa Florio

The 44th Annual Targa Florio world championship event for sports cars was run over a hilly, twisting, 45-mile road course near Palermo, Sicily, on May 8. It was won by a Porsche driven by Joakim Bonnier and Hans Hermann, who completed the required ten laps in 7 hours 33 minutes 8 seconds. In second place, six minutes behind the winner, was a Ferrari driven by Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips. The car left the road, while Tripp was driving, and it took the men four minutes to make needed repairs.

Vanderbilt Cup

After a lapse of 22 years, the Vanderbilt Cup race was revived at Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island, New York, on June 18-19. The event, restricted to the tiny Formula Junior cars, was won by 37-year-old amateur Harry Carter, driving an Italian Stanguellini.

Cornelius Vanderbilt IV presents the Vanderbilt Cup to Harry Carter.
Harry Carter getting the Vanderbilt Cup from Cornelius Vanderbilt IV

Watkins Glen

In the Formula Libre Grand Prix event held at Watkins Glen, New York, on October 9, Stirling Moss crossed the finish line 7 seconds ahead of the 1960 World Driver Champion Jack Brabham to win the event in the record time of 2 minutes 10.2 seconds. Moss was driving a Lotus Formula I car owned by Rob Walker; Brabham was driving a Cooper.

In the Sports-Car Grand Prix, held two weeks later, Augie Pabst drove a Scarab to victory, averaging 88.8 m.p.h., a new record. Roger Penske, driving a Porsche, was second.

See Also

In the Year 1960

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The Robinson Library >> Automobile Travel and Racing

This page was last updated on September 06, 2018.