Sunday 23rd June, 2013: Danish driver Allan Simonsen has been killed in his Aston Martin GT at the 90th anniversary running of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Simonsen had qualified in pole position in the GTE AM class of the La Sarthe Le Mans race, and as a GT leader, was also the favourite to win in his class.
Nine minutes into the race though, and on the fourth lap, his #95 Aston Martin left the road at high speed failing to make the Tertre Rouge corner.
It is currently unclear what the root cause was, although video footage of the incident from the on-board camera of the car behind indicated that another car left the road at the same spot in an un-related incident just seconds earlier.
Simonsen’s Aston Martin GT-E was approaching the fast corner that leads into the Mulsanne straight before the car shifted sharply to the left, leaving the track and bouncing off the barriers.
The 34-year old’s death is the first race fatality since Austrian driver Jo Gartner in 1986, although Sebastien Enjolras from France was killed during pre-qualifying in 1997.
A statement issued by Le Mans organisers, said the investigation was focusing on the “circumstances in the race” to identify the cause.
“Following the accident which claimed the life of Allan Simonsen,” the statement read, ” an investigation has been launched as is the case for every fatal accident on a public road. This investigation is moving towards the fact that he went off track due to circumstances in the race.”
Simonsen’s family was advised by Aston Martin Racing’s principal, David Richards, who’s team is out in force at this year’s race with five entries across the two GTE Pro and Am classes. Richards went on to say that Aston Martin Racing would continue racing with the family’s consent.
The official statement went on to say; “The Aston Martin Racing team has decided to continue with the participation of its other cars, at the request of the family, and in tribute to Allan Simonsen.”
Allan Simonsen’s body has been claimed by his family.
No further statements to the media are expected whilst the investigation was under way, and whilst the race continued under the tragic circumstances. However, John Gaw, Aston Martin Racing’s managing director described the incident as a “terrible tragedy”.
Simonsen was a veteran of the Le Mans race having taken part in 7 previous 24 Hour races. His best finish to date was second in his class in 2010, and since his race debut in 1999, Simonsen has won the Danish Formula Ford Championship, the Australian GT championship and the Asian Le Mans Series.
He shared his car for Le Mans with fellow Danes Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen in the class that mixes professional and amateur drivers over the 24 hours. Simonsen was at the top of the professional listing in this very competitive driver team.
Aston Martin’s Richards stated as the race continued into the night: “The team is, of course, deeply saddened by the loss of one of our drivers, however we are as focused as ever to win this race, but we are now racing to win for Allan.”
The remaining cars in the Aston Martin Racing fleet were first and second in GTE Pro and in seventh place in GTE Am.