No announcement was ever made at the track that night that anything out of the ordinary had occurred. Even as priests from the local Catholic parishes moved grimly through the grandstand area performing extreme unction for the dying and the dead, a few hundred yards away people totally unaware of the carnage were dancing and singing at the infield carnivals.
At 2 a.m., via telegraphed orders from the company's directors, Mercedes retired from the race while its cars were running first and third. When Mercedes decided to withdraw, Neubauer sent a messenger to the Jaguar pit thinking that the British team might also want to drop out. But when Lofty England was informed of his rivals' decision, he turned to one of his drivers and said, "They retire, you can take it easy."
Within an hour, the two remaining Mercedes were loaded on transporters for the trip back to the company's headquarters near Stuttgart. Mercedes finished out the year, winning both the sports car and the Formula 1 championships, but at the end of the 1955 season the company announced that it was withdrawing from competitive racing. On May 9, a practice will be held for the 54th Le Mans, which will take place on the weekend of May 31-June 1. There will be no Mercedes entered this year, just as there have been none for the last 31 years.
Hawthorn and Bueb went on to win in 1955. Hawthorn crossed the finish line in a steady rain on a cold, gray Sunday afternoon. There were still 50,000 spectators left at the track. Almost none cheered. When Hawthorn was handed the traditional winner's bottle of champagne, he absentmindedly drank from it. Later that week L'Auto-Journal would run a picture of this with the bitterly sarcastic caption, À VOTRE SANTÉ, MONSIEUR HAWTHORN! (To your health, Mr. Hawthorn).
Pierre Levegh was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, his funeral attended by many of the world's greatest racing figures. At Le Mans, 300 million francs ($857,000 at the time) were spent to move the grandstands back from the track, widen the course and build a concrete wall to separate the racing circuit from the main spectator area. At the spot where Levegh's car went into the crowd, a simple marble plaque bearing a cross and the words 11 Juin 1955 was fixed to the new wall. In the years immediately following the accident, the plaque was often covered by superstitious drivers during the 24-hour race.
Mike Hawthorn was exonerated of guilt in the disaster by a board of inquiry. He continued racing, winning the world championship in a Formula 1 Ferrari by a single point over Stirling Moss in 1958. But two of his Ferrari teammates, Luigi Musso and Peter Collins, his closest friend, were killed in racing accidents that season. At the end of the year, Hawthorn abruptly retired.
Hawthorn is remembered as one of the last of the burn-the-candle-at-both-ends drivers, an all-night partygoer who the next afternoon could step into a car and drive with the best of them. Yet the 1955 Le Mans race never left him. Before he died, he wrote of the race: "It was as though we were at the point where a great rock had been hurled into a pond, sending out waves of shock and horror and indignation which would later flow back, bringing consequences which no one could foresee."
Less than two months after his unexpected retirement, Mike Hawthorn, too, was dead. He was killed instantly when the Jaguar he was driving spun and crashed at high speed on a rain-slick curve near his home in Surrey.