The 12th Le Mans 24 Hour victory by Audi has been marred by the death of Allan Simonsen, after a crash claimed his life only three laps into the French endurance race.
The 81st running and 90th anniversary of the Le Mans 24 Hour will be one long but not forgotten.
Less than 10 minutes into the 24-hour-long race around the Circuit de la Sarthe, the Aston Martin Racing Team’s No 95 Vantage GTE driven by Allan Simonsen left the track and collided with a barrier at the exit of Tertre Rouge at 15:09 CET.
The team later confirmed the news of his death with “great shock and sadness”.
“Tragically, and despite the best efforts of the emergency services in attendance, Allan’s injuries proved fatal,” a statement from the team said.
While the race was halted for an hour to remove the wreckage, clear the track and repair the barrier, at the specific request of Simonsen’s family, the race, and his team, continued on as a tribute to the Danish driver.
The 34-year-old, who also raced locally in both the V8 Supercars series and Australian GT Championship, died less than two weeks before his 35th birthday.
Two days prior, Simonsen and his fellow Danish team-mates Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen had celebrated their pole position achieved ahead of Saturday’s race start.
Simonsen is the first driver to die during a Le Mans 24 Hour race since Austrian Josef Gartner in 1986, and the last to die at the circuit since Sebastien Enjolras’ death during pre-qualifying in 1997.
The cause of the crash is still being investigated.
The race win for the No 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Loic Duval (France), Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Allan McNish (Scotland) marked the second consecutive victory for the hybrid racer and the ninth win for Kristensen.
Audi’s head of motorsport Wolfgang Ullrich said everyone was completely shocked by the news of Allan Simonsen’s death.
“Our sympathy primarily goes to his family and friends but to the team of Aston Martin as well,” Ullrich said.
“It shows that you must never stop doing whatever is possible for safety in motorsport. This is the first fatal accident we’ve had to witness in 15 Le Mans years. I hope it’ll remain the last.”