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Switzerland Is Open to Racing Again After 67-Year Ban

Very few races have been allowed in Switzerland since the ban, but that may change.
A Dragon Formula E car crossing a junction on a road in Bern, Switzerland
Formula E

Tiny, mountainous nation Switzerland has produced a surprising number of racing drivers. From IndyCar racer Simona de Silvestro to multiple-time Le Mans winner and Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi, the place hits way above its population weight in numbers. There have even been some Swiss racing teams, like Rebellion in the World Endurance Championship and longstanding Formula 1 midfielders Sauber. Plenty of racing drivers also move there, for tax reasons mainly, but for 67 years, the sport has been essentially banned.

All motor racing got banned in Switzerland following the 1955 Le Mans disaster, one of motorsport’s most horrible incidents. Pierre Levagh’s Mercedes skipped over tire barriers, caught fire, and fired debris into the crowd, killing Levagh and 83 bystanders. With 180 people wounded in the incident, it became motorsport’s most deadly crash and was why Mercedes left motorsports for a long time. Switzerland’s government ruled that, although the incident had taken place in France, motorsport was simply too dangerous to be allowed, and all forms of racing were completely forbidden.

Firemen Putting Out a Fire at Le Mans in 1955 following Pierre Levagh's disastrous crash

There’s actually been a few motorsport events in Switzerland since. Formula E ran two races in Zürich and Bern, which had special exemptions for being electric. There’s also been a couple of rallies, and the mad-cap scooter racing series eSkootr Championship ran its second round in Sion a couple of weekends back, also under the electric exemption.

However, anything else has been entirely off the table for 67 years, and the Swiss Grand Prix, which had started back in 1934, was totally off. Swiss media, though, reported this week that all that could be reversed now, as the Chamber of Cantons (basically the Swiss senate) voted to overturn it in a bunch of rule changes that, unusually for Switzerland, all look like they could benefit cars.

Switzerland is a pretty terrible country to drive in for a bunch of reasons, like a very low overall speed limit, incredibly harsh penalties for minor infractions, and because there are a bunch of places where you can’t take cars at all up in the Alps. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, preserving a very beautiful country with an incredible train system over tarmacking it into highways, but it does mean that it’s a rare day when there’s good news for drivers there.

Alongside voting to overturn the ban on motorsport, the Chamber of Cantons has also voted to remove a minimum prison sentence of a year for the party deemed responsible for any fatal car crashes and to reduce the time that someone loses their license for highway code infringements, as well as voting in the way of regulating and registering autonomous vehicles.

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