Like any speedway track, the Windsor RSL Speedway had its fair share of spectacular accidents, and one of the most spectacular involved speedcar driver Merv Ward back in 1956.
On the 13th of May, Ward was competing in the speedcar feature race when he clipped the car of Gwes Bowen in Turn 1, which resulted in Ward’s car starting a series of roll-overs. In the process of the roll-overs, Ward was thrown from the car, and ended up against the safety fence after the car ended back up on its wheels.
During my research into the history of the Windsor RSL Speedway, I was able to obtain an amazing series of photos taken by a photographer on the infield of the crash, along with a picture taken from outside of Turn 1, and which was featured in a contemporary magazine. Here are these pictures:
A very spectacular accident! Merv Ward’s head is just visible behind the ambulance officer in the final photo, and he is probably wondering how he is still in one piece and conscious. His injuries were a laceration to his lower right leg and ankle, and shock. He was taken to the Hawkesbury District Hospital and after observation, was allowed to leave.
Back in the 1950’s, speedcars did not have the range of safety measures that exist in modern cars. The only restraint that the drivers used was a lap belt which was fitted across their abdomen. Most of these belts were ex-military equipment, and they were not always reliable, as the Ward accident showed. It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that shoulder harnesses were fitted, and in the early 1970’s full roll-cages were fitted to cars.
Not all accidents at the Windsor RSL Speedway at this time had such a happy ending. On the 12th of August, Charlie Cam was competing in a speedcar race when his car rolled-over in a race. Like Ward, Cam’s safety belt broke, and he was thrown onto the track, suffering two depressed fractures of the skull, and died shortly afterwards – the first of two fatalities at the speedway between 1949 and 1968.