Hector Lester will return to the Avon Tyres British GT Championship grid in 2014, as will the Simonsen name after it was announced that the Ulsterman will share his Ferrari 458 GT3 with Benny Simonsen, younger brother of Allan Simonsen.
The elder Simonsen and Lester had been a fixture in the British GT paddock before the partnership was curtailed by the tragic events of last June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Lester sat out what remained of the 2013 season, assessing his future in racing without his friend and mentor.
However, the shamrock adorned 458 will now return for the 2014 season, which starts with the traditional Easter weekend meeting at Oulton Park.
It will not be the first time that Lester will have raced with Allan, with Gordon Shedden, Stephane Daoudi and Tim Mullen all making appearances in the Rosso Verde entry.
“Allan was our team,” Lester said. “What Allan wanted, Allan got and it left a massive hole in our life when he was taken from us. We never had a contract together, it was a beautiful relationship built on trust and understanding, and we’re looking forward to having Benny join us and be part of the family.”
He continued; “it took shape at the SRO Awards in December. I think Benny had someone who was able to fund a package for another series, but we got chatting and all of a sudden things felt right again. It was catharsis for everyone involved. Shamrock and red #3 is back; the name Simonsen stays on the car, as does the Danish flag. I think we’ll get a big smile from above too you know.”
“Benny has our full support and assistance, we’re a fun team, and we’ve said, ‘lets give it a go’. We’re not commercially responsible to anyone and just out to enjoy our driving. I think this really bridges the gap after all that happened in 2013, and gives us all a leg-up to reality after the pain of losing Allan.”
Lester and Benny together presented the Allan Simonsen Memorial Trophy at the December event, awarding the honour to Nick Tandy. The Allan Simonsen Memorial Trophy will continue to be given to the driver who races with the humility, speed and good humour Simonsen brought to the race track.
“It was a mix of emotions when Hector contacted me,” said Simonsen. “It was nice of him to give me a shot and of course I wanted to drive, but I had to think and ultimately I believe it is a nice tribute to Allan. Obviously you’d like to have a shot in better circumstances, but its nice to keep the relationship going and I’m looking forward to the first race.”
The younger Simonsen has raced extensively in a variety of machinery, from a GTE Porsche in the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship to a Renault Clio Cup in the Danish Endurance Championship. His race visits to the UK include just one race at the Cheshire track where he will make his debut with Lester when he raced in the British GT supporting Trofeo Abarth 500 GB championship, a weekend that included a wild two-wheeled moment through Old Hall.