TUESDAY 15 JUNE 2010
ANOTHER TOP RESULT FOR SIMONSEN AT 24 HOURS OF LE MANS
A few weeks ago, Allan Simonsen could hardly believe that he, Dominik Farnbacher and Leh Keen had managed to topple some of the biggest players at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. Porsche was pushed off the podium for the first time in four years. The Hankook Ferrari was wedged between the might of the BMW and Audi efforts. People were taking notice.

And now, Allan and his team have had their best ever result at Le Mans - 2nd in GT2!

When the ACO announced the entrants for GT2 in the 2010 Le Mans Series it was a bit of a shock for the regulars. Corvette was moving from GT1 to GT2. BMW had arrived with a double factory effort. Jaguar was returning. And Aston Martin would field entries in all but the P2 class. Add to that a mix of top ex-F1 drivers, an array of tyre manufacturers and you had the most competitive and tough GT2 class ever seen in the history of sportscar racing.

Having won the Asian Le Mans Series, last November in Okayama, the German-based Hankook Ferrari Team inherited an automatic entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There was no waiting, wondering or begging for an entry – it was locked down 100% before the season had even started. But this year they would combine three German VLN events at the Nordschclife along with their regular Le Mans Series program.

Clearly, the South Korean tyre manufacturer had come forward and leaps and bounds since the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year, Team Farnbacher Hankook applied the same approach to Le Mans as they did at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring – keep off the kerbs, be gentle on the gear changes and not make silly mistakes.

Their reward? 2nd in GT2 and 12th outright, beating even the GT1 class winner! An amazing result.


Allan Simonsen had some thoughts on the race: "Second place in Le Mans is another magnificent performance from Farnbacher and Hankook. The team provided us drivers with a very, very good and reliable car. When you think that we also finished runner-up at the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, it is quite simply a fantastic performance. We didn't have the slightest problem during the race. A few of the big teams did not finish, but we approached the race as you must approach a 24-hour race: we focussed fully on getting through to the finish."

Here is the story of how the week leading up to the race and the event itself unfolded.

Allan had found himself back at Spa, the weekend prior to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to race his British GT Ferrari GT3 in what is becoming the most sort after round of the so-called domestic championship. It hasn't been a stunning weekend, with the championship supplied Avon tyres suffering a series of blowouts.

A five hour drive from the Belgium circuit to Le Mans, on Saturday night allowed Allan to attend the all important technical inspection, in the Place Du Jacobin. But on arrival, many people were surprised to find the regular tech centre had been bulldozed. For 2010 it was moved to the front of the majestic cathedral, in the centre of the old town. Close but a smaller area. And the crowds were amazing. The car sailed through without a hitch and Allan along with team mate Dominik took time out to do some Speed TV interviews. Leh Keen was absent, having been on Grand AM GT2 duties back in the states, would join the team on Monday, along with a 2nd in GT for his efforts.

Wednesday practice and qualifying went very well. Hankook had a comprehensive tyre program to run through and it was relatively little effort to find a good setup on the car. Everyone goes as hard as possible on Wednesday night, the first opportunity to qualify. The air is cold and dense and the possiblility of damp conditions, the following day, is always front of mind for a team manager. A slight delay in swapping out a 6th gear part was the only hiccup and the mandatory 3 qualifying laps were completed. That now left extra time for Leh to learn the track, as he was the team rookie.






Thursday Qualifying. Allan took to the track and turned 8th fastest in GT2, on the race tyre, rather than a qualifying special, that most team deployed. One team, AF Corse, would not make any further proceedings in the event, having destroyed one of their two Ferrari's after a massive accident at the entry to the Porsche curves. But there were still 17 GT2's left!

Friday is rest day. Well that depends how you look at it. The Parade du Pilote is held through the old town and its quite a task for the drivers, waving and signing the myriad of autograph cards, that have become hallmark of the famus race. Hankook had provided an array of gifts to hand out - yo yo's, gift bags and driver hero cards. One extra special moment that occured was the assembly of all the Ferrari drivers, at the request of Ferrari, perhaps marking the final time that the highly successful 430 would appear at Le Mans.

But not so. The ACO had announced new rules for 2011. GT1 was gone and GT2 would be split into a Pro category (GT-Pro) and and amateur grouping (GT-AM). The AM pairing would use cars a year or older, thus ensuring a mix of the 430 and the new incoming 458, that the Pro's would use.

On race morning, Allan made his regular pilgrimage to the Danish camps for a very friendly 'meet andf greet'. Tens of thousands of Danes flocked to Le Mans and this year Leh and Dominik accompanied Allan, being hailed as honarary Danish citizens, for the race.

Race Time. Dominik was the nominated start driver and moved quickly up to 6th. Allan would then climb aboard for a double stint with the Hankook tyre, for the first time. Such was the improvement of the rubber. Leh followed. Then Dominik. All was going like clockwork.

Looking at the drive times, Allan was in from 4pm-6pm, 10.30pm to 12.30am (Sunday), 3.30pm to 5pm, 9.30 to 11.30pm and finally 1.30 to 2.30pm.

Only one issue for Allan occured - finishing his very early morning dwan stint, a prototype made an unnescessary lunge at Mulsanne corner. With Allan committed, he used all his skill to avoid contact, but flat spotted a tyre in the save process, forcing a slightly early pitstop.

Leh had a moment at Arnage – a very common problem for drivers being the slowest corner on the track. He was quickly pushed back, losing a minute for the error.

Dominik had a small spin during the night, also losing a minute.

Leh took the car across the line, lining up perfectly behind the three Audi R15+ to maximise media exposure.

And there was Allan, back on the podium, one step higher that his debut in 2007 with Autorlando Sport.

There were little time for celebrations though, with Allan jumping into his road car with his girlfriend and younger brother, Benny, for a 24 hour drive back to Denmark. How's that for dedication!!!

Back home their was a media frenzy, and TV2 focussed on the great race like never before.

Hankook had risen to the occasion and for the first time double stinting was possible.

Many thanks must go to everyone at Team Farnbacher Hankook – from all the engineers and to Horst, for his unwaivering belief in my ability and allowing us to continue our Nürburgring pairing once again for a well deserved podium.