By Leslie Xavier
The Audis dominated this year’s 24 hours of Le Mans, the 90th running of the legendary race. But the German manufacturer’s victory—their No. 2 R18 e-tron quattro hybrid prototype (LMP1 class) won the event—was overshadowed by the tragic death of Danish driver Allan Simonsen, who crashed his Aston Martin in the third lap of the race on Saturday, June 22.
The 34-year-old Simonsen, a veteran of the GT circuit, was racing in his seventh Le Mans event. Simonsen and teammates Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen had secured pole position with their No. 95 Aston Martin in the GTE Am class. Simonsen was entrusted with the driving duties in the opening part of the race, which began under wet and tricky conditions on Saturday afternoon. In the third lap, tragedy struck when the former Danish Formula Ford champion lost control of his Aston Martin Vantage GTE at the Tertre Rouge bend, the highest point of the 13.6-km track and one of the fastest corners. He spun off the kerbs and into to the barriers on the exit of the corner. The car bounced back onto the track before coming to rest—the force of the impact had crushed part of the roof and the rollcage.
Paramedics attended to the injured driver and shifted him to Circuit de la Sarthe’s medical centre where he succumbed to his injuries. Simonsen’s was the first fatal crash at the famed event since the death of French driver Sébastien Enjolras during a Le Mans pre-qualifying session in 1997, when his car burst into flames in a crash over the safety barriers.
The death of Simonsen has once again put to light the dangers lurking around the corner in motorsport. Technological advances and improved safety practices have made the track a safer place, no doubt. But racing still remains a serious business and one seldom gets away with mistakes.