Driver Death at Le Mans Raises Safety Issue Again

Just the Facts:
  • Allan Simonsen, 34, was killed in a crash Saturday during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
  • Like the death June 12 of Jason Leffler, the incident has raised questions about safety.
  • Simonsen's car crashed into a steel guardrail retaining barrier after he lost control on the third lap of the race.

LE MANS, France — The death Saturday of Danish racer Allan Simonsen in a crash during the 24 Hours of Le Mans cast a pall over the race and once again raised questions about danger in auto racing.

There was immediate reaction from the racing world, including a tweet from Formula 1 driver Jenson Button, who wrote, "Allan Simonsen RIP. Such a tragic loss. A true fighter & a true racer. Safety is something we need 2 improve on in Motorsport."

The Le Mans track is not equipped with the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reducing) Barriers that are now in place at all major racing facilities in the U.S., including NASCAR and IndyCar venues. The absence of modern barriers was noted in reaction to a crash June 12 that killed American racer Jason Leffler at a New Jersey dirt track.

Simonsen, 34, suffered fatal injuries when his Aston Martin crashed just a few minutes into the twice-around-the-clock race. Simonsen was leading the GT-Amateur division after two laps when he crashed.

Aston Martin Racing said in a statement it will not make any further comment until the precise circumstances of the accident have been determined.

An onboard view from another racecar showed that Simonsen's car twitched as he accelerated through the right-hand Tetra Rouge turn. When Simonsen attempted to correct, his car veered to the left, toward a steel retaining barrier.

Replays from another camera angle show the smashed coupe slowly rolling backward across the track after impact, the right-side door hanging open and one wheel, torn from the car, rolling alongside. Simonsen received treatment from medical workers on site and was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Cars reach speeds in excess of 100 mph on the Tetra Rouge corner as they approach the fastest portion of the track, the long Mulsanne Straight.

Simonsen's death is the first during competition at Le Mans since Jo Gartner was killed in 1986.

Le Mans was the site of the worst disaster in motorsports in 1955, when more than 80 spectators and driver Pierre Levegh died after Levegh's Mercedes went out of control, flew into the air and ripped through a spectator area.

Edmunds says: The old-style Armco guard rails caused several delays during this year's race after crashes, including Simonsen's. Whether the barrier was a factor in Simonsen's death has not been determined.

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