FORMULA 1 MOTORSPORT NEWS

Jules Bianchi F1 Japanese crash not first time family has experienced racing tragedy

Marussia F1 driver’s great uncle, Lucien, was killed while testing at Le Mans.

Marussia Formula One driver Jules Bianchi’s devastating crash in the Japanese Grand Prix — and his subsequent hospitalization and surgery for a severe head injury — is not the first time the 25-year-old Frenchman’s family has suffered from tragedy in motorsports.

Lucien Bianchi  Monaco Grand Prix 1968
Lucien Bianchi
Monaco Grand Prix 1968

Bianchi’s great uncle, Lucien Bianchi, won the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans. Born in Italy but raised in Belgium, he also won the 1962 12 Hours of Sebring alongside co-driver Joakim Bonnier driving a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa.

Lucien Bianchi was also successful in rallying and participated in a handful of Formula One races, with a best finish of third in the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix driving for Cooper-BRM. He achieved his overall Le Mans win with co-driver Pedro Rodriguez, driving a Ford GT 40 Mk.1. But in 1969 while testing an Alfa Romeo T33 at Le Mans, Bianchi lost control and the car struck a telephone pole, killing the 34-year-old.

Jules Bianchi is also the grandson of Mauro Bianchi, a three-time sports-car world champion.

Mauro Bianchi Le Mans 1968
Mauro Bianchi
Le Mans 1968

Jules Bianchi’s father, Philippe — a restaurateur in France — recently told newspaper Corse Matin that he chose not to participate in motorsports after experiencing the death of his uncle. He managed the kart track where Jules as a child honed his skills but said of racing himself, “It was too complicated because the family did not want to go through more tragedy.”

Jules Bianchi is in intensive care in a Japanese hospital following an incident on lap 43 of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix. His Marussia impacted a recovery crane that was off the circuit attempting to extract the Sauber of Adrian Sutil, who just one lap prior had spun off the road in the same location.

A fan-shot video posted to YouTube and removed quickly shows Bianchi’s car spearing into the crane at high speed, lifting the heavy steel vehicle into the air and appearing to wedge itself beneath it left-side first. Damage to the Marussia was catastrophic as the impact tore the left side and, more critically, the entire airbox and rollover-hoop assembly off the chassis, leaving Bianchi’s head exposed in a manner rarely seen — if ever — in modern-day F1 crashes.

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