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Pierre Levegh

The letters above are the most remarkable items in my collection they are the actual signed letters to Alfred Neubauer team manager of the works Mercedes team. The first letter relates to the conversation that levegh had with Neubauer in 1952 regarding the possibilty of Levegh racing for Mercedes the second letter thanks Neubauer for the opportunity to join the Mercedes squad for 1955. This would be the last drive for Levegh as it was his car that would crash into the crowd at the 1955 race and kill over 80 spectators. Both letters are signed and one unusualy signed with his real name Pierre Bouillin and the other signed with his racing name Levegh.
Pierre Levegh (December 22, 1905 – June 11, 1955) was a French sportsman, mainly remembered for a disaster that killed him and around 80 spectators during the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1955.

Born Pierre Bouillin in Paris, he took the racing name Levegh in memory of his uncle, a pioneering driver. Levegh was also a world-class ice hockey and tennis player. In motorsport he competed in Formula 1 for the Lago-Talbot team in 1950 and 1951, starting six races, retiring in three, and scoring no points.

At Le Mans he raced for Talbot in four races, finishing fourth in 1951. In 1952, driving single-handedly, his car suffered an engine failure in the last hour of the race with a four lap lead. Some say that this failure was probably caused by a missed gear change due to driver fatigue I would like to believe that it was just bad luck. If his car had lasted to the end he would have become a French national hero and would have probably been the only person to win and race the 24 hours of Le Mans alone. In 1953 he came in eighth, and in 1954 he was involved in an accident in the seventh hour of racing.

In 1955 he was tempted away from Talbot and joined the American John Fitch in racing a Mercedes 300 SLR. In the third hour of racing, while on the Tribunes Straight, he clipped an Austin-Healey driven by british driver Lance Macklin that was forced to make an evasive move after Mike Hawthorn dived into the pits. After hitting an earth bank, the car flew through the air, disintegrating, scattering components into the crowd. Fangio would go on to say that Levegh probably saved his life as prior to leveghs car being launched Levegh raised his hand to let the following Fangio know that something was happening. Levegh was killed, as were 86 spectators, while over 100 were injured. The race was continued in order to prevent the spectators from leaving, which would have blocked all access roads and prevented the ambulances attending the dying and injured.
While Mercedes withdrew from the race as a sign of respect to the victims (and later from motor racing in general for the next 30 years), Mike Hawthorn continued to win the race. The accident was a major contributor to changing attitudes about the acceptance of danger in motor racing and an increase in the desire to make courses safer for spectators and drivers alike. The small British firm of Bristol Cars, whose entrants achieved a 1-2-3 finish in the 2-litre class at Le Mans that year, decided to abandon racing altogether as a result of the tragedy, scrapping all but one of their racing cars.
Macabre Postcards were made up and sold.

The following is a rough translation of the letters.

Translation letter 1

8th January 1955

Monsieur Alfred Neubauer

Stuttgart-Unterturkheim

Germany

Sir

I thank you for your agreeable letter as well as your good wishes and I ask you to accept mine most sincere for 1955

I am happy to know that you welcomed the proposition of Monsieur Delcroix favorably for the request that I made to him for me to participate in the 24 hours of le mans in 1955 for Mercedes.

I had suggested to Monsieur Delcroix that if you had wanted to send a 4th car to Le mans while designating me a driver he should have certainly known that all your cars were hired by your answer since the 1st January 1955. I hope that you will retain me as a driver to your 3rd car.

Please accept sir the assurance of my sentiments

Sincerely

Translation letter 2

Monsieur Alfred Neubauer

Oberingenieur

Daimler Benz Aktengessellsc

1st March 1955

Sir

It is with great joy that I received your letter of March 3rd confirming to me that you wished me to drive your car at le Mans and agreed it with monsieur le Director Nallinger.

I know Mr. John Fitch having met him with Mr. Briggs Cunningham at Le Mans

I accept the conditions specified in your letter and wait for your organization to return from Monza. I wait for your telegram allowing me to announce my engagement for the Mercedes team at the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Please accept sir the assurance of my best feelings.

Bouillin Pierre

Alias Pierre Levegh

Licence delivered to the ACF No. 24

 

Racing is life – everything else is just waiting!