When I first heard the name Allan Simonsen it was said in an Australian accent, the voice commentating on the V8 Utes Series when it first appeared on TV in the UK.
In common with my first time seeing many an international series on TV I quickly chose a team – a driver – to support. The young Dane, who was seemingly willing to drive anything (he was also racing in an Australian GT series which made it to my TV at a similar time) and similarly rapid in everything.
Years later, as I drifted towards following sportscar racing, his name appeared in front of me again. Again he was quick no matter which series he drove in, and in what car. After the formation of this site in the same year he was part of the Hankook Farnbacher team that took a surprise second at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, their privateer Ferrari threatening a race win that would have beaten the factory BMWs.
The same year for the first time I became aware of something of his calling card in the British GT Championship – the drive through the field. At the final weekend of the 2010 season he qualified the Ferrari 430 Scuderia he shared in the race on pole, but the car spun in the hands of his co-driver. However, through the second half of the Simonsen was unstoppable driving up the order to his only win in the championship that year in one of the highlights of the season.
The first time I ever sought him out in the paddock to speak to I was genuinely nervous. He was a favourite driver I had followed in several races and series for many, many years by that point and I left the Rosso Verde garage with huge smile on my face after just a few minutes in conversation about the recent session
His position as one of the very best drivers in the championship was something he kept even as the series expanded around him.
On any weekend in the championship he could be found at the top of the times matching, or even beating, drivers whose CVs – on paper – glittered far more.
This year he started the season with pole at Oulton Park, beating a field that included the likes of Nick Tandy (a Porsche works driver), Richard Westbrook (a former Porsche Supercup champion, now Corvette works driver) Glynn Geddie (a former British GT Champion), Matteo Bobbi (an FIA GT champion).
His elevation to part of the Aston Martin Racing works team seemed to be a deserved reward, recognition of his position among the very best of the world’s GT drivers.
The weekend before Le Mans Allan and regular co-driver Hector Lester were a late addition to the British GT entry list at Snetterton, a weekend Allan started by setting the fastest time in the first of the practice sessions.
It ended, however, with problems in qualifying and as I and my TCF colleague left the track at the end of the day we spotted the instantly recognisable shamrock front of the team’s Ferrari already loaded onto their truck.
I can’t remember my exact words I said as we packed our things away but watching the team putting the car away was a disappointment as it almost certainly meant a race day without the prospect of another pair of Simonsen charges – something that would probably have been one of the race’s highlights – from the lowly qualifying spots their problems had limited them to.
Racing is a little slower for his loss.
The British GT Championship is just one corner of racing, one tiny partitioned-off scrap of the world, that will miss Allan.
I am deeply honoured to have shared even a few minutes with him in covering the championship and I am certain I speak for everyone at TCF when I say my thoughts are with all of his friends and family.