Audi's Tom Kristensen wins Le Mans 24-hour race
Record ninth victory for the Dane
Dedicates his triumph to compatriot Allan Simonsen
Aston Martin's Simonsen was killed in accident at Le Mans Saturday
Audi’s Tom Kristensen recorded a record ninth victory in the Le Mans 24 hour race Sunday and dedicated it to fellow Dane Allan Simonsen, who died in a high speed crash the previous day.
Kristensen, 45, has been touched by personal tragedy after the death of his father earlier this year, but paid wanted to pay special tribute to Simonsen.
“He can wait for the next victory of mine,” he said.
“This victory today I dedicate to Allan Simonsen, a great fellow Dane.”
Kristensen shared his triumph, his first at Le Mans since 2008, with co- drivers Britain’s Allan McNish and local star Loic Duval.
It was Audi’s fourth in row and 12th in 14 years.
Before the victory ceremony a brief tribute to Simonsen was paid. The Aston Martin driver crashed at speed early in the famous endurance race Saturday and died of his injuries at the track.
“We lost someone yesterday who had the same dream as I did, a good bloke,” added Kristensen.
His car came home a lap clear of the first from arch-rivals Toyota, who included Engand’s former F1 driver Antony Davidson.
The ex-Minardi driver suffered a heavy crash at Le Mans last year and said Simonsen’s death had been at the back of his mind as he raced.
“It’s very hard, especially with what happened to me last year, to fight my own demons and carry on driving,” he said.
“It’s sad, sad news and it puts everything into perspective.”
The Aston Martin team, fielding five entries in the GTE-Am class, continued to race after the tragedy at the express wishes of Simonsen’s family.
Aston Martin chairman David Richards said it had been a tough experience for all concerned, although their leading car managed third place in the category.
“The team continued its participation in the race which was obviously very emotional and difficult for everyone,” he told the official Aston Martin website. “I’d like to thank everyone who has shown us such support over the weekend and sent the messages of condolence to Allan’s family,” he added.
Wet conditions and the one-hour delay after Simonsen’s fatal accident made for a difficult race on the Circuit de la Sarthe in western France.
Audi’s two-time defending champions Marcel Faessler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer had led the race, but lost 43 minutes when they were forced to change the alternator in their sportscar during Saturday night.
Kristensen, who scored his first win at Le Mans back in 1997, took full advantage to register an emotional win.