Tom Pryce was a British F1 driver who famously passed away in a crash during the 1977 South African Grand Prix, find out more below about his cause of death, autopsy, video and photos
Aside from Tom, safety marshal Frederik Jansen van Vuuren also passed away from the 1977 South African Grand Prix crash.
Tom Pryce 1977 F1 accident video, crash injuries photos, cause of death and autopsy
#OTD in 1977.
Niki Lauda drove his Ferrari 312T2 to victory in the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami.
The result was overshadowed by the tragic accident which claimed the lives of Shadow driver Tom Pryce & track marshal Frederick Jansen van Vuuren.#F1 pic.twitter.com/RDZiuQT5Pw
— F1 Nostalgia 🏁 (@_F1_Retro) March 5, 2023
With drivers travelling at high speeds, Formula 1 is arguably one of the most dangerous sports on earth.
Over the years, a number of tragic deaths have taken place, with the deaths of Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994 and Jules Bianchi in 2014 at Suzuka being the most famous deaths.
Tom Pryce biography
Thomas Maldwyn Pryce was a British racing driver from Wales who was born on 11 June 1949, Ruthin, United Kingdom. He was born to parents Gwyneth Pryce and Jack Pryce and was married to Nella Pryce from 1975–1977. He passed away on 5 March 1977, Midrand, South Africa. Aside from winning in the F1, she famously won the Brands Hatch Race of Champions in 1975.
Tom Pryce career
The Welshman started out his Formula One career with a small team called Token, excelling as a great wet-weather driver. He eventually made his F1 debut at the 1974 Belgian Grand Prix. Tom eventually switched to Shadow Racing Cars, with whom he claimed two podiums. His first podium finish came in Austria in 1975 while the second finish came in Brazil the following year.
1977 South African Grand Prix crash
The infamous crash that took place at the 1977 South African Grand Prix lead to the deaths of F1 driver Tom Pryce, and safety marshall, Jansen Van Vuuren. Ahead of the race, Pryce clocked the fastest time during wet practice sessions but eventually dropped down to fifteenth place during the qualifying. However, Pryce experienced a bad start at the start of the official race and came down to 22nd place.
Tom quickly managed to gain back some places however as he came up to the 16th spot by the end of lap six. It was around lap 22 that the tragic incident happened when Renzo Zorzi, Pryce’s teammate, pulled off to the left side of the main straight. Renzo parked his car due to problems with his fuel metering unit. Following a problem with the engine, it caught fire when Zorzi made an attempt to disconnect the helmet oxygen supply.
Due to the fire, two safety marshals crossed over to the other side to help Zorzi while carrying fire extinguishers. One of the marshals was Jansen Van Vuuren. While this was happening, Pryce and another driver, Hans-Joachim Stuck, came racing towards Renzo and the marshalls. Since Zorzi parked his car right at the crest of the hill, it was impossible for the oncoming drivers to spot the marshalls.
While Stuck managed to move and avoid hitting the marshals, Tom wasn’t able to spot van Vuuren on time. As such, he struck the marshal while driving at a speed of 270 km/h (170 mph). Reports state that the marshal’s body was torn in half and died instantly, while Pryce got hit in the head by the fire extinguisher that the marshal was carrying. Pryce had his head partially decapitated by his helmet strap and also died instantly.
A statue in honor of Tom Pryce
Following the tragic and shocking accident, the FIA introduced multiple safety measures like mandatory use of fireproof suits and helmets. Tom was just 27 years old at the time of his death, while van Vuuren was just 19 years old.
In memory of Tom Pryce and his career, the Tom Pryce Trophy was set up to award Welsh individuals in motorsport. Moreover, Pryce is the only Welsh driver to have led a Formula One World Championship Grand Prix. As such, authorities erected a statue of him in his hometown of Ruthin in honor of Tom.