Le Mans update: Aston Martin crash occurs in first hour

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10 a.m. ET: The 90th Anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans is underway from the Circuit de la Sarthe, with more than one hour complete.

That said, the majority of the first hour was spent under the safety car for a massive accident at Tertre Rouge for Allen Simonsen, the GTE Am class polesitter, in the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage.

Reports have been mixed on Simonsen’s condition. An official tweet from the @FIAWEC Twitter account said Simonsen was conscious (that tweet is below). On the SPEED TV broadcast, pit reporter Andrew Marriott said Aston Martin officials were unable to confirm his condition.

No replay was shown of exactly what caused the shunt, but Simonsen’s car contacted the Armco barriers on the exit of the corner and his left door on the car was gone, with the right one still ajar. Tommy Milner, co-driver of the No. 74 Corvette Racing C6.R in GTE Pro, tweeted what he had heard via reports.

We’ll keep you posted as official news develops.

At the front of the field, the pair of Toyota TS030 Hybrids made early charges with Nicolas Lapierre and Anthony Davidson on the trio of Audi R18 e-tron quattros. Audi is expected to pit earlier and more frequently than the Toyotas as the Toyotas have a fuel tank size advantage, but the pace of the Audi is expected to keep it ahead.

Olivier Pla, the polesitter in LMP2, led that class in the No. 24 OAK Racing Morgan Nissan until his first pit stop. Aston Martin’s No. 97 led GTE Pro with Patrick Long leaping to the lead in GTE Am in the No. 77 Dempsey Del Piero Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, the car that also includes Patrick Dempsey behind the wheel.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”