Neil Shanahan (lost footage of fatal British Formula Ford Zetec Championship crash; 1999)

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This article has been tagged as NSFL due to its discussion of a fatal motor racing accident.


Neil Shanahan.

Status: Lost

On 31st May 1999, during the fifth round of the British Formula Ford Zetec Championship at Oulton Park, Neil Shanahan was involved in a three-car collision while approaching Clay Hill. His Van Diemen ended up smashing into a protective barrier, inflicting fatal chest and neck injuries. It is known that footage of the fatal crash exists.


Heading into the race, Neil Shanahan was considered one of Ireland's brightest racing prospects.[1][2][3] Having won the Irish Formula Ford Championship in 1998, Shanahan signed a contract with the Van Diemen International Team for the both the British and European Formula Ford Championships.[2][1][3] Having been the team which had taken on Formula One drivers Ayrton Senna and Eddie Irvine early in their careers, Shanahan was considered a likely candidate to break into Formula One himself.[1][2] Early in the season, Shanahan had led the opening race at Donnington Park, while also finishing fourth in Brands Hatch two weeks earlier.[3]

Shanahan qualified tenth for 18-lap event held at Oulton Park.[3][2] Even before the race commenced, safety concerns were raised when, during a BTCC race, Russell Spence crashed his Renault Laguna into Alain Menu's parked Ford Mondeo at the run-off of the Lodge Bend.[1][3] This caused the cars to slam into a spectator area, injuring two spectators.[3][1] Oulton Park had already garnered a reputation for being a dangerous track for two fatal accidents that occurred earlier in the 1990s.[1] One of which occurred on 21st July 1991, when Paul Warwick passed away in an accident during a British F3000 Series race held at the circuit.[1][2]

The Crash

On lap 2 of the race, Shanahan was battling for position as he and two others approached Clay Hill.[4][5][2][1] Suddenly, the cars collided at around 120 mph, which caused Shanahan's Van Diemen to exit the track.[2][1][4] He ended up slamming into a protective barrier at around 100 mph.[2][1] The resulting impact wrecked the Van Diemen, including detaching one of its front wheels.[2] Although Clay Hill was deemed as a medium speed corner unlikely to produce fatal crashes, Shanahan suffered serious chest and neck injuries.[5][2] It is believed by some, including Van Diemen boss Ralph Firman, that one of the car's front wheels entered the cockpit and hit Shanahan.[2]

When the track's medical crew arrived on-scene, they discovered Shanahan had also suffered a cardiac arrest.[2][4]> They were able to resuscitate him, before airlifting the driver to the Countess of Chester Hospital.[2][1][4] Ultimately, his injuries were declared unsurvivable, with Shanahan being declared dead on arrival to the hospital, aged 19.[2][1][4][5] Considered one of the brightest prospects within the Irish motor racing scene, Shanahan was also described as a "very popular driver" with a clear passion for motor racing.[2][1] In 1999, the Neil Shanahan Memorial Trophy was unveiled, which is awarded annually to the winner of the World Finals of the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.[6][3]

Shanahan was the first Irish driver to pass away during a race since Peter O'Reilly in 1978.[3] Shanahan's fatal accident, as well as Menu's crash, also led to heavy criticism of Oulton Park's safety standards, with some like Paul Warwick's brother and former Formula One driver Derek Warwick believing that no races should be held at the track.[1][2][3]


Cameras were present at the event, with Shanahan being interviewed a day prior to the race. According to Influential Moments in Racing, it is known that footage was captured of Shanahan's fatal accident.[5] The footage would be obtained by Shanahan's parents, who wanted to understand the circumstances of the accident.[5] Even if the footage still exists, it is highly unlikely that it will be publicly released.



Shanahan's interview a day before his fatal accident.

TV3 News report on Shanahan's fatal accident.

UK Anglia News report on Shanahan's fatal accident.

See Also

External Link