Elmer Trett (lost footage of fatal Top Fuel Motorcycle drag racing crash; 1996)
On 1st September 1996, Elmer Trett was competing in a Top Fuel Motorcycle drag racing exhibition, when he suddenly fell off his bike while riding at 232 mph. Trett hit a sand trap at high speeds, killing him instantly. It is known that footage of the fatal accident was captured.
Elmer Trett was considered one of Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing's biggest names. He had won eight national Top Fuel championships and had become the first to break through the 200, 210, 220, and 230 mph marks during sanctioned races. By 1996, he had reached the 235-mark in a quarter-mile, while also achieving a run of 6.06 seconds at 234 mph on 8th August that same year. Prior to the exhibition race held at Indianapolis Raceway Park as part of the NHRA U.S. Nationals, Trett was seeking to become the first to break the five-second bracket, with a ninth title also looking set to be a reality.
Trett was to compete alongside three other Top Fuel Motorcycle racers, including Larry McBride, Tony Lang, and Chris Hand. A day prior to the exhibition runs, tragedy struck during Top Fuel driver Blaine Johnson's race, when his vehicle suffered an explosive engine failure that broke its rear wheels and wing, causing it to crash heavily into the wall near the shutdown area. Johnson passed away from his injuries inflicted in the accident, aged 34.
Despite Johnson's fatal accident, drag racing continued at the venue the following day. On 1st September, Trett would compete against Lang. He started his run down the strip, reaching a speed of 232 mph. At around the same place as Johnson's accident, Trett suddenly fell off his bike. He would slide along the track across the path of Lang, before he slammed into the sand trap. His body ended up somersaulting several times upon impact, which almost disfigured him, before laying to rest on the trap.
Trett was pronounced dead at the scene, aged 53. Trett is deemed a father of modern-day motorcycle drag racing, having competed at the Top Fuel category since the 1970s. Aside from his success within the sport, Trett was praised for his efforts to ensure its survival. This included even assisting rival racers so they could compete against him. He would be inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, as well as becoming the first motorcycle racer to be inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. The deaths of Johnson and Trett at the 1996 edition of the U.S. Nationals has led to it becoming one of the darkest weekends in NHRA's 70+ year history.
Footage of both Johnson and Trett's fatal accidents were captured. But whereas clips of Johnson's accident have since leaked online, Trett's crash was only shown once on Indianapolis Raceway Park's big screen before it became locked away. Among the few who have seen the video includes McBride, who summarised it as "an ugly deal". Thus, considering the graphic nature of the accident, as well as out of respect to Trett and his relatives, it is extremely unlikely the tape will ever be publicly released.
- AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame detailing the life and career of Trett. Retrieved 4th Aug '22
- Dragbike detailing the accomplishments of Trett, including reaching 235 mph in 1996. Retrieved 4th Aug '22
- CycleDrag detailing the career of Trett and his dedication to ensuring Top Fuel Motorcycle racing's survival. Retrieved 4th Aug '22
- Autoweek detailing the accidents of Johnson and Trett, as well as noting the video captured of the latter's accident. Retrieved 4th Aug '22
- Influential Moments in Racing summarising the fatal accidents and noting the footage of Trett's crash that has since been withheld. Retrieved 4th Aug '22