LE MANS, France
Danish driver Allan Simonsen died following a crash at the 24 Hours of Le Mans today in the first driver fatality at the high-speed endurance event since 1997.
Race organizers said the 34-year-old Simonsen was taken to the hospital after his Aston Martin No. 95 crashed about 10 minutes after the start of the race. The car spun at high speed and skidded into the barrier at the Tertre Rouge corner where speeds reach up to 170 kph (105 mph).
The violence of the impact showed as a tire from Simonsen's car rolled on the track while a door hung open.
Simonsen died at the hospital soon after arrival "due to his injuries," organizers said.
"Tragically, and despite the best efforts of the emergency services in attendance, Allan's injuries proved fatal," Aston Martin Racing said in a statement on its website.
Sebastien Enjolras lost his life in pre-qualifying in 1997. The last driver fatality in the 24-hour race itself was Jo Gartner in 1986.
The worst crash in Le Mans history occurred in 1955 when Pierre Levegh's Mercedes flew into the crowd, killing more than 80 spectators.
Aston Martin, which has five Vantage V8 cars in the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes, will continue in the race "at the specific request" of Simonsen's family and in tribute to the driver.