At this point, it looked as if 1956 would be another banner year. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Ernie entered the April 22 Pebble Beach race with both his Osca MT4 and the Doheny 4.4 Ferrari. He dropped out of Race 4 because a screw fell out of the rotor in the Osca. The main event that day included some of the very best drivers this side of the pond—Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill, Jack McAfee, Sterling Edwards, Bill Murphy, John Von Neumann, Bill Pollack and Lou Brero among them. Ernie didn’t get a good start and was playing catch up. By the middle of the race, Shelby was leading followed by Hill and Pollack. Ernie was 4th and closing with Jack McAfee right behind. Jack told me what he saw when I was working on my Pebble Beach Remembered book: “Just after Ernie passed me, he missed a shift. Then he jumped on the brakes while in the wrong gear. This made everything lock up. So then he just went straight off the course and boom (into a tree).”
The accident resulted in the death of not only Ernie McAfee, but also racing at Pebble Beach. I was so upset that I just got in my car and drove home. It was sometimes hard to see due to the tears in my eyes. And I didn’t want to go back to Monterey until years later.
Note: This year—2007—is the fiftieth anniversary of the first event held at Fort Ord on the Laguna Seca course. I’m trying to round up all of those who raced then, who are still around, as well as their descendants. Please get in touch with me. Call 310-540-8068 or email email@example.com.