Teammates of fallen Le Mans driver continue on

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Allan Simonsen’s teammates at Aston Martin Racing are continuing their races at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after the 34-year-old Danish driver died following an accident this morning during the first hour of the race.

A short release from the team stated that their three GTE-Pro class and No. 96 GTE-Am class squads would keep racing in tribute to him at the specific request of Simonsen’s family. Simonsen was driving a second GTE-Am machine, the No. 95 Vantage V8 (pictured), when he collided with the ARMCO barriers at the Tertre Rouge corner on his fourth lap of the race.

He later succumbed to his injuries at the Circuit de la Sarthe’s medical center. Simonsen’s death has reverberated throughout the racing world this morning, with Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin mentioning that he was behind the Dane on the track at the time of his fatal accident.

“Dreadful news that Allan Simonsen has passed away,” Gavin said on Twitter. “I was right behind him when he went off at Tetre [sic] Rouge, horrible accident. Just awful.”

Formula One’s Max Chilton has tweeted that he was “truly saddened” about the tragedy, while Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan has called it “tragic news.”

According to Autosport, Simonsen’s death is the first at Le Mans since 1997, when French driver Sebastien Enjolras was killed in a pre-qualifying crash. It is also the first in the race itself since Austria’s Jo Gartner lost his life in an accident on the Mulsanne Straight back in 1986.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “