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.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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