Kristensen powers Audi

Kristensen powers Audi

Simonsen's death mars event; Chandhok's team 17th

Kristensen powers Audi

Denmark's eight times winner Tom Kristensen led a tragedy-tinged Le Mans 24 Hours race into the daylight on Sunday after compatriot Allan Simonsen was killed in a crash only minutes into the endurance event.

Kristensen, in the number two Audi he shares with British two times winner Allan McNish and Frenchman Loic Duval, was nearly two laps clear of the first of two Toyotas as the 18 hour mark was reached during one of many safety car interludes.

The first race fatality in 27 years at Le Mans cast a pall over 90th anniversary celebrations for the race on its 81st running at the La Sarthe circuit near the western French cathedral city. Simonsen's Aston Martin team vowed to carry on and win their GTE Am class in tribute to the 34-year-old, who crashed his Vantage heavily into the barriers at Tertre Rouge on his third lap, at the request of his grieving family. 

Jean Todt, president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), and organisers expressed their "profound sadness" after the experienced Dane was pronounced dead at the circuit medical centre. 

The most recent fatality connected with the race was Frenchman Sebastien Enjolras, killed during pre-qualifying in 1997, but the last to die during the race was Austrian Jo Gartner in 1986.

Meanwhile, Karun Chandhok and his team Murphy Prototypes made a stunning comeback from second last position to finish seventh in the LMP2 category and 13th overall.

The trio of Brendon Hartley, Mark Patterson and Chandhok lost five laps in the first couple of hours and then Patterson suffered a spin to put the team in second last and 37th overall.

Chandhok and Hartley then drove out of their skin with long three hours stints to bring the team back to seventh position.

For Murphy Prototypes, a problem with a faulty sensor meant an earlier-than-scheduled pit stop for Hartley, who had started the race. He was followed by Patterson and third up was Chandhok.