Morning Qualifying – Wall of Death edition

Tony Brooks' Ferrari leads Masten Gregory's Cooper on the banking at Avus during the 1959 German Grand Prix.

Given the automotive suspension technology of the mid 20th century, circuits with high speed banking were dangerous places for racers to conduct their business.  As I was looking at this photo of Tony Brooks and Masten Gregory dueling at Avus, one of my favorite songs, by Richard and Linda Thompson, popped into my head.  While Thompson’s lyrics are meant a metaphor for the perils of love, their literal meaning certainly applies to our selection of photos.

“Let me ride on the wall of death one more time

Let me ride on the wall of death one more time

You can waste your time on the other rides

But this is the nearest to being alive

Let me take my chances on the wall of death”

John Cobb in the Napier-Railton Special at the Brooklands circuit in 1935.

 A 19 year old Pedro Rodriguez, in a Porsche RSK, during a USAC event at Meadowdale International Raceway in 1959.


The Alpine A220 of Patrick Depallier and Jean-Pierre Jabouille during the 1969 1000 Kms of Monza.


  Pace lap of the 1967 24 hours of Daytona.

 Here’s Richard Thompson, sans his ex-wife Linda, performing “Wall of Death”.  Enjoy!



  1. Thanks for posting the video to clear things up. I thought that Richard Thompson & Linda Thompson were maybe the Thompson Twins. Well, I suppose they could have been, but that would have been wrong.
    Back OT, why would banking have been so bad for primitive suspension? I thought the whole idea of banking was to make going around corners easier by keeping the cornering force more downward instead of sideways, thus (in my mind) more necessary with a more basic suspension setup. Hence, flat F1 circuit corners, banked NAPCAR corners (obligatory dig).

    1. The high speeds on the banking compressed the springs and shocks to such a degree that most of the suspension travel was lost. Which in turn, stressed the chassis at the points where the suspension was mounted. Given the state of mid 20th century metallurgy, that often meant a broken suspension or steering.

    2. The problem with a high bank and primitive suspension is the high bank allows the car to travel much faster through the corners. With a flat track, the car has to slow way down to take the corner, whereas a banked turn allows the driver to carry much more speed through the corner raising the overall speed of the track. If the suspension (and, probably more importantly, the brakes) aren't up to the task of the high speeds then danger ensues.

    1. Beyond the machinery, the mind reels just thinking about the driving talent in that one shot. Sigh.

      1. Phil Hill and Mike Spence in the Chaparral
        Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt in the Ford
        Chris Amon and Lorenzo Bandini in #23 P4
        Pedro Rodriguez and Jean Guichet in #26 P4
        Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti in #24 P4
        and somewhere in that herd of GT40's….Bucknum, Donohue, Andretti, McLaren, Gardner, Revson, Ginther, Ruby, Bianchi Ickx and Hulme (to name only some of the participants)

        1. And Brock Yates in a Dodge Dart! (sung to the tune of "…and a partridge in a pear tree.")

  2. I agree with Thrashy. That's beautiful! You always have the most incredible photos.

    1. taken from the 2nd best view in the house….. imagine standing on the "safety wall" platform up there…..

    2. I love these pictures. Going fast enough to achieve this isn't exactly an engineering feat, and Benzes of the banked-track-shot era aren't known for speed, but the sideways cars just look so cool.

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