Thursday 7th April 1966
Racer Walter Hansgen (46), who enjoyed some early success in the SCCA series, driving a Jaguar-based, self-built Special before being hired by Briggs Cunningham in 1956 and becoming a multiple sports car champion, died. After a stint in Europe in 1958 he began racing in Formula Junior and won a number of races in a Cooper. His shot at Formula 1 came in 1961 when Cunningham agreed to enter him in a Cooper in the United States Grand Prix. He qualified 14th and was doing well in the race until he went off in order to avoid a spinning Olivier Gendebien and wrote off the car. A year later he took part in the non-championship Mexican GP and again did well but retired with mechanical trouble. His 3rd and last opportunity came in 1964 with a 3rd Lotus in the US-GP in which he finished a remarkable 5th. But he stayed in sports cars and in 1966 he and his pupil Mark Donohue shared a Holman Moody Ford GT MKII at Sebring and finished 2nd. Hansgen then went to Indianapolis to test the new Mecom-Lola IndyCar before flying to France for the Le Mans test day. Pushing too hard he went off up an escape road only to find that two large piles of sand had been left there. The car flipped and Walt Hansgen suffered series head injuries from which he died five days later.