I was doubly shocked to hear of the death of Allan Simonsen at the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend.
First, because of the death itself. So early in the race, no contact with other cars, not even on the fastest part of the track. On the other hand, Le Mans is not a track with lots of safety improvements ... mostly because it' snot really a track. It's modified country roads.
But second, I was shocked because on Friday night in Pasadena, CA, I had dinner with one of my editors and talked through ideas for the book I'm currently working on—about another 24 hour race, the one in Daytona. As we brainstormed about death toll means and motives for murder (it's what we do), she asked if someone could be killed in a car on the track, murdered to ramp up the tension. To make the situation gut-wrenching for Kate.
So I sat in my hotel room that night (I attended the California Crime Writers Conference over the weekend) and envisioned a scene in Kate's first stint in the car (in the race's third hour, most likely) where she's the first one past a terrible accident. One in which the driver dies soon after being removed from the car. Because that would give me the opportunity to explore how Kate will react. How she'll go on. How the race and the teams will go on.
And then, Saturday morning (my time), Allan Simonsen had a terrible impact with the guardrail at Le Mans. A different race. A different track. Reality versus fiction, again. And I was shocked.
I have no real conclusion, just a lot of jumbled emotions. I'm saddened by the loss of Simonsen, as I am by the recent losses of Jason Leffler, Dan Wheldon, and others. I'm reminded once again that I am unlikely to make up anything that hasn't happened in real-life racing—or maybe I'm reassured that even the "wild" ideas I have will be believable. (At least my racing scenarios. Perhaps not my murder plots). It's said that truth is stranger than fiction. Maybe it's simply as likely as fiction.
And sadly, ultimately, I'm reminded of something I said last week: physics will always win. Rest in peace, racers.