Driver ColumnsSam Tickell (Editor)

Allan Simonsen, goodbye

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Simonsen celebrates his Australian GT Championship with the Maranello Motorsport team

I went to sleep on an average Australian night, watching Le Mans, excited for the morning – seeing Le Mans at night.  I went to sleep with some concern for Allan Simonsen, a heavy crash, taken some time to extract him from the car, off to hospital.  The lack of news coming from the team and the ACO had cause for some concern but I thought I’d wake up to “Simonsen injured” injured headlines, but this, sadly was not the case.

Instead I awoke to RIP messages, messages of condolence and people remembering the better times.  There are few times that I have been touched by tragedy in this sport – we know it is dangerous and we know the risks but it still hurts when something like this happened.  To me, this hurt a lot.

It was Simonsen that gave me my first interview as a motorsport journalist, he was undoubtedly the fastest sportscar driver that raced in Australia, for a time he was the go to endurance driver for V8 teams at Bathurst, he was mega quick at Bathurst 12 Hours and if I had a dollar for every time I wrote, ‘Simonsen broke the lap record.’

I interviewed Allan many times, I always looked forward to when I would be at a track with him, he was always pleasant, willing to talk.  He usually has PR people worried for what he would say, while never being irresponsible, would speak his mind, not minding to make a fuss.  He was always open and willing to speak – making sure the journalist was happy.  Not only with the information given but also provided a comfortable area for an interview.

The last time I talked with Allan was at the 2013 Bathurst 12 Hours, he was unhappy with the tyre situation, unhappy with benchmark times but he was happy.  We talked for a good 15 minutes in the Maranello Motorsport transporter – the surroundings a little more plush than our first interview, when we were hanging outside the sheds of Queensland Raceway.  While he was annoyed about the Bathurst situation, he was happy about his prospects, with Aston Martin Racing – where he was competing in the GTE Am class.

It would be fitting that one of his last social media posts would be proclaiming his happiness of getting pole at Le Mans.  It was hard not to see him winning the race in the GTE Am class.  He was mega quick.  His codrivers were also pretty handy behind the wheel.  He had proven experience by taking a 3rd and 2nd in GT2 classes in the past, along with class win at the Bathurst 12 Hours and a win a the Nurburgring 24 Hours.

Sadly though he would not achieve a class win at Le Mans.  Nor would he get his overall win at Bathurst.  Never doubting his pace, luck would never be on his side.  He was one of the quickest GT drivers in the world, an in-demand gun for hire.

His death at Le Mans comes some 17 years after Sébastien Enjolras died in prequalifying in 1997 and Jo Gartner’s death in 1986 was the last person that died in a race.  While we must learn from this, we must not be hysterical reactionaries and change this for the sake of it, or change things that seriously impacts the charm of the race, the track itself.  I don’t know what happened, how he died.  Not many people do, certainly not the people that comment on internet boards so you will excuse me for avoiding those sources of opinion.

This doesn’t seem real.  It was an act of class from Simonsen’s family to request that Aston continue racing.  The racing has been epic, a great tribute to Allan.

I was there when he won his GT Championship, I was there when he broke the benchmark time at Bathurst, I was watching when he took his Le Mans podiums.  It doesn’t feel quite real that he won’t be there at Bathurst next year, that he won’t monster the track into a time that no one through possible.  That I won’t be able to talk with him again.

He was a man that loved to race, you only have to look towards his racing calender every year.  This year he was racing in Australia, UK, America and in the WEC.  Almost every weekend he seemed to be racing somewhere.  To have it end at Le Mans in 2013 is a fitting place if not a fitting time.

Goodbye Allan, you will never be forgotten.

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httpv://youtu.be/XM4QpKaTNtc

A few Australian memories of Allan

Interview by Sam Tickell, June 2013

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