Nurburgring, Germany: Mike Hawthorn leads Peter Collins (both Ferrari Dino 246s) on lap 4. Collins passed his teammate but would later suffer a fatal accident.
On this day in 1958, one of Britain's brightest young racing talents was lost in a crash in the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. He was 26.
Collins burst to prominence in postwar sports car racing in Britain and advanced in to F1 in 1952, taking over for none other than Stirling Moss. After drifting to other rides with Vanwall, Maserati, and BRM, Collins got the golden call from Enzo Ferrari to join the Scuderia for 1956 – and he repaid that faith with a second-place finish behind Moss at Monaco, and wins at the Belgian and French Grands Prix. In fact, Collins looked set to become Britain's first F1 World Champion when he handed his Lancia-Ferrari D50 over to team leader Juan Manuel Fangio after the latter suffered a steering-arm failure toward the end of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Collins eventually finished second, but the advantage handed to Moss, and the extra points gained by Fangio's finish, demoted Collins to third in the championship. Still, Collins' selfless act gained him respect from Ferrari, and solidified his place in the team. Collins further burnished his glamorous lifestyle by marrying an American actress, Louise King, and taking up residence on a yacht in the Monaco harbor.
On track, Collins was hobbled in 1957 by an under-performing Ferrari 801, but things were looking up in '58 with the introduction of the Dino 246. Collins scored his third and final career victory at the British Grand Prix and a third place at Monaco. Then came Germany...
Collins and and teammate Mike Hawthorn were chasing Tony Brooks' Vanwall when Collins entered a turn too fast. Collins lost control and, in Hawthorn's direct sight, flipped in the air and landed upside down in a cloud of dust. Though Collins was thrown clear as the car somersaulted, he struck a tree, sustaining critical head injuries, and passed away at a nearby hospital later that day.
Hawthorn would go on to claim the World Championship for Ferrari that year but, deeply affected by by his fellow Briton's death, he then retired from racing.