Allan Simonsen’s death after a spinout cast a pall over the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The race still had more than 23-and-a-half hours to go, but there was no call to stop it on Saturday after the first driver fatality in 16 years.
Simonsen’s partner Carina, mother to their daughter born last year, made sure of that.
It was her “specific request” that Simonsen’s team, Aston Martin Racing, continue the world’s most renowned endurance race in honor of the Dane.
Just 10 minutes into the race, Simonsen spun and skidded into the barrier at the Tertre Rouge corner, where cars typically reach speeds of up to 170kph. The 34-year-old Simonsen was taken to hospital, where he died of his injuries, race organizers said.
The violence of the impact showed as a tire from Simonsen’s car rolled on the track, while a door hung wide open. The race was held up for nearly an hour to repair the guard rail.
“Tragically, and despite the best efforts of the emergency services in attendance, Allan’s injuries proved fatal,” Aston Martin said in a statement.
Simonsen’s death was the first driver fatality since 1997, when Sebastien Enjolras was killed in pre-qualifying. The last driver fatality during the race was Jo Gartner in 1986.
Simonsen was participating for the seventh time at the endurance race, which is won by the team that completes the most laps in 24 hours, with up to three drivers alternating.
He finished second in the GT2 class at Le Mans three years ago. He clocked the fastest time in qualifying on Thursday in the GTE-Am class.
Simonsen and Danish co-drivers Kristian Poulsen and Christoffer Nygaard were leading the GTE-Am class in the world endurance championship after topping their category at Silverstone, England, in April and finishing second in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, last month.
Toyota Racing team president Yoshiaki Kinoshita expressed his condolences, along with drivers from around the world.
Formula One driver Jenson Button tweeted: “Allan Simonsen RIP. Such a tragic loss. A true fighter & a true racer. Safety is something we need 2 improve on in Motorsport.”
In related news, race organizers said a driver died after losing control of his car in the German VLN Endurance Racing Championship at the Nuerburgring.
Organizers said Wolf Silvester apparently lost control of his Opel Astra OPC and was found sitting motionless in the car.
Attempts were made to resuscitate the 55-year-old on the way to the circuit’s medical center “where the chief medical officer finally had to testify the death.”
The DPA news agency reported that the driver suffered a heart attack.
Silvester was a regular participant in the race, winning the 10-race endurance series title in 2006 and 2010.