Elio, 35 years ago…
Elio de Angelis (26 March 1958 – 15 May 1986) moved to the Bernie Ecclestone owned team Brabham for the 1986 season, alongside fellow Italian Riccardo Patrese.
The 1986 Brabham-BMW, the BT55, was the brainchild of long time Brabham designer Gordon Murray. The BT55 was a low line car (picture below) with a reduced frontal area to maximise top speed and have a cleaner airflow over the car, to create more downforce.
In May 1986, during tests at the Paul Ricard circuit in France, the rear wing of de Angelis’s Brabham detached at high speed. The car slid of track against the barriers and caught fire upside down. The unfortunate Italian could not extract himself from the car unassisted. It took ages for the few marshals present to reach the scene and Elio de Angelis died 29 hours later, at the hospital in Marseille, from toxic smoke inhalation.
Elio de Angelis was a highly popular presence in Formula One, a real gentleman, an excellent pianist, and a very good competitor, who is sadly missed to this day.