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GRAND-AM driver provides medical analysis of driver deaths

Jun 24, 2013, 3:30 PM EDT


One of the best pieces published following Allan Simonsen’s fatal accident Saturday at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was done by Dr. Jim Norman, a parathyroid surgeon and racer in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.

Norman and fellow surgeon Dr. Jim Lowe, a neurosurgeon who has also competed in GRAND-AM, have published an extensive list of the medical terms that have caused fatal injuries to racing drivers. The article is published in the Parathyroid blog of Norman’s website,

An official cause of death for Simonsen’s accident has not yet been determined. However, Norman estimates the likely cause is related to a sudden deceleration injury, either to the brain or aorta. An excerpt below:

Although we do not know the actual cause of death of Allan Simonsen at yesterday’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, reports are that he was conscious and talking when rescue workers first tended to him, only to have him become unconscious a few moments later, to be pronounced dead a short time later. He was driving in one of the most modern sedan-type cars (not open-cockpit) and his factory sponsored Aston Martin had every possible modern piece of safety equipment. There was no evidence of penetrating injuries, and no evidence of blunt force trauma. Thus the likely cause of this terrible tragedy is almost certainly to be related to a sudden deceleration injury, either to the brain, or to the aorta.

Video of Simonsen’s accident has been hard to find, but what is known is that Dane lost control of his Aston Martin at the 100 mph-plus right-hand kink called Tertre Rouge. The car snapped across and contacted the Armco barrier on the corner exit; a tree is right behind at that part of the course.

Although the article is long, considering the medical expertise Norman and Lowe have and the fact they have entered the world of sports car racing, the full piece is a must-read.

  1. needmoretorque1 - Jun 24, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    Fascinating stuff.

  2. wallio - Jun 25, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Ratzenberger died of a broken neck, not an aorta. And why does he just gloss over fire? Fire is a very real threat, even with fuel cells, etc. Look a Simona at Texas, and Junior at Sonoma. As someone who has been on fire in a race car before, I can tell you its not something to be written off in one paragraph.

    Now on to the tree. I’m torn. On one hand, no it shouldn’t be there, but on the other, it really wasn’t that bad of a wreck (especially compared to McNish’s or Davidson’s the two years prior) and honestly it was a lot like Senior’s wreck, he should have walked away.

    I also doubt that drivers are “anxious and skittish” as he puts it. Brian Keslowski said it best after Leffler’s crash: “All racing, at every level is dangerous”. Its just an accepted risk. And honestly, if you ever get “anxious and skittish” in a race car, its time to hang it up.

    • indycarseries500 - Jun 25, 2013 at 9:13 AM

      We never see the Simonsen impact, it’s a sudden stop when these injuries happen. Davidson’s or McNish’s accidents looked more spectacular but energy was being dispelled the whole time(with the exception of Davidson getting dropped on his tailbone).

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the injury is in the heart, Eliseo Salazar had a torn artery in his chest suffered in a testing crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway weeks before the SAFER Barrier was installed.

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