Tragedy has once again struck the motorsports community, as Danish driver Allan Simonsen died Saturday as a result of a crash at the 90th 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.
BBC's Breaking News Twitter feed initially reported the story, which was confirmed by race organizers:
Simonsen was 34 years old.
While details on the crash are still sparse, Simonsen's No. 95 Aston Martin is said to have spun out and hit the barrier at Tertre Rouge corner within the first 10 minutes of the race, per an Associated Press report (h/t USA Today). Upon impact, Simonsen was attended to by medical personnel at the race and then sent to a local hospital, where he died shortly after arriving.
He was expected to run the endurance race with two teammates, countrymen Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen. Neither driver has released a statement at this time on their teammate's passing.
Following the confirmation of Simonsen's death, Automobile Club de l'Ouest, the organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, released a statement expressing its sadness about the incident:
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest wishes to express its great sadness following this incident, and extends its deepest condolences to the family and those close to Allan Simonsen.
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest will make no further statement while the exact reasons for the accident are still being wholly determined.
A seven-time participant in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Simonsen was one of the more respected Gran Turismo drivers on the planet. He won the Danish Formula Ford Championship in 1999 and took the Australian GT Championship in 2007. In his six previous attempts to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Simonsen finished the marathon race twice, finishing second in his class in 2010 and third in 2007—his first ever attempt at France's most famous event.
Upon hearing of his passing, many in the racing community extended their condolences. Formula One driver Jensen Button was regretful of his colleague's passing and noted his sport's responsibility to do more for in-car safety:
Allan Simonsen RIP.such a tragic loss. A true fighter & a true racer. Safety is something we need 2 improve on in Motorsport. #AllanSimonsen— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) June 22, 2013
Simonsen's death comes only 10 days after NASCAR driver Jason Leffler sustained fatal injuries in a sprint car race in New Jersey. Leffler, 37, flipped his car multiple times at the Bridgeport Speedway's "Night of Wings" event and died upon arrival at a local hospital.
This is the first death of a driver at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race since Jo Gartner in 1986. Sebastien Enjolras passed away following a crash in 1997, but that was in the pre-qualifying phase of the competition.
Our thoughts are with Simonsen's family and friends following this tragedy.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter