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Le Mans, June 23, 2013

The 90th anniversary of the first running of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in 1923 was marred by the death of the Danish driver Allan Simonsen, who succumbed to injuries received when his Aston Martin Vantage hit the barriers at high speed at the Tertre Rouge corner, on the 3rd lap of the race. He was extricated from the wreck, reportedly conscious, and was rushed to the circuit medical centre, but died shortly afterwards, despite the best efforts of the medical team. At the request of his family, knowing his passion for motor sport, the Aston Martin team continued the race with their remaining four entries. It was a subdued mood throughout the paddock, almost one of disbelief, as apart from being a talented driver, he had been a well liked and popular competitor.

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The accident left the car in the middle of the track, and there was heavy damage to the guardrails, which brought out the safety cars, whilst the stricken car was removed and the barriers repaired for the security of the other competitors. From video footage from a following Corvette, it appeared that the car rode the, still wet from a rain shower, painted kerbs and seemed to get a bit loose, but then suddenly veered sharp left off the track and into the Armco barriers, which it hit with such force that the car was thrown back onto the track. The constantly changing weather was a factor which affected everybody, it remained cool for the duration, with short and sharp rain showers throughout the race, making conditions difficult to predict. This made tyre choice a bit of a lottery, particularly as sometimes it was dry on one part of the circuit and soaking wet on another, prompting many incidents and spins, fortunately none with the serious consequences as that of Allan Simonsen. Given the nature of the conditions, and despite there being eleven safety car periods, it is a tribute to the skills of the drivers, and hard work of the teams, that 42 of the 56 starters were classified as finishers, albeit that a number looked a little “second hand” at the end, all covered in grime, and many with hastily taped repairs to the bodywork.

It was an hour before the race resumed, and immediately the Audis and Toyotas were once again locked in battle for supremacy at the head of the remaining 55 cars in the field, just as they had been prior to the safety car period. The trio of Audi R18 e-tron Quattros had dominated the qualifying sessions, locking out the top three positions on the starting grid, in the order of # 2 Kristensen / McNish / Duval, # 1 Lotterer / Fassler / Treluyer and # 3 Gene / Di Grassi / Jarvis, with the quickest of the Toyota TS030-Hybrids, the # 8 example of Davidson / Buemi / Sarrazin some 4+secs off the pole position time in 4th place on the grid. However, maybe they had been sandbagging to lull Audi into a false sense of security, because the performance of the Toyotas under race conditions was definitely a closer match for the Audis, and the duel for overall honours continued for the duration.

Audis cause was not helped by technical problems on the # 1 and # 3 cars, which lost them time in unscheduled pit stops, particularly the former example which had an alternator failure and then brake problems, which meant that it was 10 laps behind the winner at the end of the race. Both of the other Audis suffered from punctures, but fortunately for # 2 car of Kristensen / McNish / Duval that was their only problem during the race on their way to overall victory. The Toyota team weren’t without their problems, mainly with the # 8 car of Lapierre / Wurz / Nakajima, which was running in a strong 4th place closing down the # 3 Audi in the 22nd hour of the race for 3rd place, when one of the many rain squalls swept in, and Nicolas Lapierre went off the track and into the tyre wall in the Porsche Curves, taking the front bodywork off the car. He managed to get it back to the pits for repairs, but lost 7 laps in the process, but still brought the car home in 4th position, still 3 laps ahead of the delayed # 1 Audi. Thus Audi took their 12th win in 14 years, with Tom Kristensen taking his record breaking run of wins to a total of nine, which he tearfully dedicated to his late countryman Allan Simonsen on the podium. For co-driver Allan McNish it was Le Mans win number three, and for Loic Duval a maiden victory. The # 7 Toyota of Davidson / Buemi / Sarrazin, finished 2nd, and managed to get back on the lead lap in the closing stages, but allowed the winning Audi to re- pass, so that it didn’t have to complete another lap when the flag fell. The # 3 Audi of De Grassi / Gene / Jarvis filled out the podium, which was a very restrained affair, with Jacky Ickx giving a moving eulogy to Allen Simonsen, followed by Tom Kristensen, prior to the presentation of the trophies.

The best LMP1 privateer finisher was the Strakka Racing HPD ARX-03C of Leventis/Kane/Watts, which finished 6th overall, after its only LMP1 rivals, the pair of Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota B12/50s had a variety of problems that saw them finish well down the order. In the strongly supported LMP2 group, 23 starters, victory went to the # 35 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Baguette / Plowman / Gonzales ahead of the sister # 24 example of Pla / Brundle / Heinemeier Hannsson, with the # 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan 03 of Martin / Conway / Rusinov taking the final podium position.

In the two GT classes, LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am, qualifying had shown that it was likely to be a battle between Aston Martin and Porsche for victory in both classes, as they seemed to have the legs on their Chevrolet, Dodge and Ferrari opponents. This proved to the case, although Aston Martin lost the # 95 LMGTE Am pole sitting car in the horrific accident on lap 3, and later lost the # 99 LMGTE Pro example driven by Frederic Makowiecki, who crashed out while leading the class, another victim of the changing conditions. This left the two Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSRs to win the LMGTE Pro class, the # 92 example of Lieb / Lietz / Dumas leading home the # 91 example of Bergmeister / Pilet / Bernhard, both a lap ahead of the # 97 Aston Martin of Turner / Dumbreck / Muecke. In the LMGTE Am class it was the # 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 RSR of Vernay / Narac / Bourret that took the win, a lap ahead of the # 55 and # 61 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT2s of O’Young / Perazzini / Case and Cioci / Griffin / Gerber in that order.

Despite the miserable weather forecast, which proved to be accurate for once, some 245,000 spectators descended on Le Mans over the weekend, unfortunately the majority going home more with a memory of a horrific accident, than a great motor race.


Race # Model Chassis # Team Colour Drivers Result        OA Cl.
LMGTE Pro Class
71 Ferrari 458 GT2 2874 AF Corse Red-RWG St’s O. Beretta / K. Kobayashi / T. Vilander  20th 5th
51 Ferrari 458 GT2 2876 AF Corse Red-RWG St’s G. Bruni / G. Fisichella / M. Malucelli 21st 6th
66 Ferrari 458 GT2 2808 JMW Motorsport Yellow-Grey A. Bertolini / A. Al Faisal / K. Al Qubaisi 34th 10th
LMGTE Am Class
55 Ferrari 458 GT2 2822 AF Corse Red P. Perazzini / L. Case / D. O’Young 26th 2nd
61 Ferrari 458 GT2 2848 AF Corse Red-RWG St’s J. Gerber / M. Griffin / M. Cioci 27th 3rd
81 Ferrari 458 GT2 2846 8 Star Motorsports Orange- Black & Silver Stripes V. Potolicchio / R. Aguas / J. Bright 37th 10th
54 Ferrari 458 GT2 2862 AF Corse White-Blue Y. Mallegol / J-M. Bachelier / H. Blank DNF DNF
57 Ferrari 458 GT2 2840* Krohn Racing Lime-Blue St.- Black T. Krohn / M. Mediani / N. Jonsson DNF DNF

updte after the exclusion of car 26 (2013 June 28)

Keith Bluemel