Sports car racing was robbed of a talented and popular driver at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Aston Martin Racing driver Simonsen, 34, succumbed to injuries sustained in an accident on only the third lap of this year’s 90th anniversary running of the French classic.
The Dane died after his Aston Martin Vantage GTE hit the barriers on the exit of Tertre Rouge, just minutes into the race. Simonsen, who shared the car with countrymen Kristen Poulsen and Christoffer Nygaard, was leading the GTE Am class at the time after claiming pole position.
Simonsen lost his Aston Martin on the painted kerb on the exit of the fast right-hander that leads on to the Mulsanne Straight. The car slammed into the unprotected crash barrier and the driver was attended at the scene before being transferred to the nearby circuit medical centre, where he died shortly afterwards.
A successful GT specialist, Simonsen’s career took him all over the world.
It was not uncommon for him to take in nearly 30 races a year: this season he was competing in the World Endurance Championship, a programme that had already yielded a class win at the Silverstone series opener, the British GT Championship and rounds of the ADAC GT Masters in Germany. He was also due to make his annual trip to Australia for the V8 Supercar enduros.
Simonsen was much more than just a jobbing driver; he was knocking on the door of the world’s elite.
Simonsen’s breakthrough seasons came in the Le Mans Series with the Farnbacher Ferrari team in 2010-11.
He emerged as a true front-liner over the course of those campaigns.
Simonsen started out on the single-seater ladder after a successful karting career in Scandinavia. He took the Danish Formula Ford 1600 title in 1999 before moving to the UK. With backing from the Team Brask management group he raced first in Formula Palmer Audi and then Formula Renault UK.
When the money ran out after a brief move into Formula 3 in Germany, he found a home in the GT ranks. Simonsen contested some British races with the Veloqx Ferrari squad and then landed a full-season drive in the Australian Nations Cup GT Championship, a series he would win in 2007. His first forays on the international sports car scene came in 2005 and, for 2007, landed a drive in the LMS with the British Virgo team, which would have yielded the title had he not had to miss a round courtesy of his Australian V8 commitments.
He is survived by partner Carina and daughter Mie-Mai, who was born last year. Gary Watkins
Andretti to Formula E
The Andretti Autosport IndyCar Series squad is the first big-name signing for the new-for-2014 FIA Formula E Championship.
Andretti Autosport, which last year took its fourth IndyCar title, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, is the third team to sign up for the one-make series for electric vehicles, which is due to kick-off next September. It joins the British Drayson team and China Racing on what will be a roster of 10. Team boss Michael Andretti said: “It’s an honour for Andretti Autosport to have been selected as one of the 10 founding Formula E teams for the inaugural season.”
Andretti will use the Spark-Renault SRT_01E chassis like all other teams. The FIA has confirmed that the series will be open to other constructors for its second season.
Berlin has been announced as the final host city for the inaugural Formula E series, which will run over the winter of 2014-15. The race will take place on a circuit laid out on the site of the former Tempelhof Airport.
Nissan’s electric racer
Nissan has unveiled the experimental racer with which it will next year attempt to complete a lap of Le Mans’ 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe and attain a top speed of 300kph (186mph) using only electric power.
The Japanese manufacturer took the wraps off a mock-up of the ZEOD RC, which will fill the ‘Garage 56’ grid spot reserved for machinery showcasing green technologies, ahead of this year’s event in June. The car, which retains the configuration of last year’s Delta Wing, is a hybrid, but the ZEOD, which stands for zero emissions on demand, will be able to run in fully electric mode on energy stored in its lithium-ion batteries.
Delta Wing architect Ben Bowlby, who is leading the design of the ZEOD in his new position of Nissan’s director of motorsport innovation, said: “The first target is to do 300kph in a straight line and one lap as a pure EV [electric vehicle]. That is about 40 mega joules, which is an incredibly large amount of energy to store in a battery.”
The Nissan also has an internal combustion powerplant, which has been described as a booster engine or range extender. Innovation has been promised in this area, too, although it is expected that it will be powered by petrol.
The ZEOD is scheduled to run for the first time in the autumn. British motor sport engineering specialist RML is overseeing the project, having also spearheaded development of the Delta Wing once Nissan became involved.
The ZEOD is a precursor to Nissan’s full-time LMP1 engagement with electric power. A three-year commitment to race in P1 was a pre-condition of the company being allocated Garage 56.
The 1962 European Rally champion died recently, aged 91. The German was best known as a works driver for Mercedes in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and took the prestigious European title in a 220SE. He won many major European rallies in an 11-year career before retiring in 1965. He was also a fine racer and at one time held the touring car lap record for the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Max Le Grand
This respected photojournalist died recently, following a battle with cancer. He was a prominent figure in international motor sport paddocks during the 1960s and 1970s, working for magazines and sponsors. He later crewed for Chay Blyth during the 1977-78 Round the World Yacht Race and also worked as a TV presenter. In more recent times, he had worked successfully as a travel writer and photographer.
Toyota cuts back plans
Toyota is scaling DOWN its assault on the FIA World Endurance Championship in the wake of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The Japanese manufacturer will run just one TS030 Hybrid in the remaining five rounds of the series, with the exception of its home event at Fuji in October. The solo entry will be driven by Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi.
The move was expected. Toyota had planned to run a solo car in the full WEC and two cars at Le Mans and the Spa round in May, but was persuaded by WEC promoter the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to make two full entries.
Loeb set for WTCC
Citroën has given the green light to its plans to enter the World Touring Car Championship with Sébastien Loeb next season.
The French manufacturer, winner of the past nine World Rally Championships with Loeb, revealed its ambitions to join the WTCC last year. It has given the project the go-ahead after a test programme with a modified DS3 WRC car undertaken by Loeb and former Chevrolet WTCC driver Alain Menu.
Citroën boss Frédéric Banzet said: “Citroën Racing has spent the last few months looking in detail at the opportunity of going ahead with this programme. The WTCC is based on several aspects that are essential to Citroën: extensive media coverage, regulations that keep costs down and a genuinely global race calendar.”
Citroën has yet to announce which model it will run next year.
Its decision to join the series means the WTCC will move to introduce a new breed of car. A 2014-spec WTCC racer will be more powerful, wider and have bigger wings than the existing generation of Super 2000 machinery.
See page 108 to read Motor Sport’s exclusive interview with Sébastien Loeb