Tragedy has struck in the opening minutes of this year’s fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans race, with versatile sports and touring car driver Allan Simonsen killed behind the wheel of his Aston Martin GTE-Am Class racer following a heavy crash.
The 34-year-old Dane – who won pole position in his class in the #95 entry he was copiloting with his compatriots Christian Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen – was leading the GTE-Am class field early on when his GTE Vantage suddenly veered left at the ultra-quick Terte Rouge right-hander, slamming into the barriers.
Despite the almost immediate arrival of a medical team, the damage to his car was extensive, and the seriously-injured driver died soon after being rushed to the circuit’s medical centre.
“At 15h09 the No.95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, driven by Allan Simonsen of Denmark, exited the track at high speed at the Tertre Rouge corner on his fourth lap of the race,” a statement from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) reads.
“The driver was immediately attended on the scene by the doctors from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s Medical Service.
“In a serious condition, Allan Simonsen was transferred immediately to the Circuit Medical Centre where he died soon after due to his injuries.
“The Automobile Club de l’Ouest will make no further statement while the exact reasons for the accident are still being wholly determined.”
Simonsen’s death is the first for the famous event at the Circuit de la Sarthe since Sebastien Enjolras was killed in a prequalifying accident in 1997, and the first in race conditions since the death of former F1 racer Jo Gartner in 1986.
While it would be customary practice for any team to withdraw its remaining entries as a mark of respect, Aston Martin Racing – which is fielding entries in both the GTE-Am and GTE-Pro classes as part of its centenary celebrations – will continue racing at the request of Simonsen’s devastated family, who were quickly informed of his passing.
Simonsen was well-known in racing circles both here in Australia and overseas, widely respected for being one of the most versatile of his generation.
After training as a mechanic, Simonsen started out in single-seater racing in his homeland, winning the Danish Formula Ford 1600 title in 1999 before he moved to England to compete in the Formula Palmer Audi and Formula Renault championships.
He was a regular co-driver at the V8 Supercars endurance events, peaking with a third-placed finish alongside Greg Murphy in 2011 (pictured right).
Well-liked by his peers and fellow competitors, his death came as a shock to the racing world and another sickening reminder of the dangers that all racers accept when they take to the track.
He is survived by his wife and young daughter. All at RichardsF1.com extend their deepest condolences to Allan’s family, friends and colleagues.