Audi fought off the Toyota challenge for a second year to claim the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans after a tense and emotional race that was tinged with tragedy.

The undisputed king of Le Mans, Tom Kristensen, took the chequered flag in the #2 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro after a dramatic final couple of hours in which the weather, which had played a part throughout the race, saved its best for last with a huge downpour that caused chaos throughout the field.

le mans

The Audi #2 held off the Toyotas for more than 12 hours to win

The win gave Kristensen his ninth victory while team-mate Allan McNish claimed his hat-trick and Loic Duval his maiden win.

The trio finished ahead of the #8 Toyota TS030 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson, Stephane Sarrazin and Sebastien Buemi after a close battle but one which Audi looked to manage for more than half of the 24 hours. Rounding off the podium was the #3 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Marc Gene and Lucas Di Grassi.

However, the celebrations were muted because of the death of Aston Martin driver, Allan Simonsen, in the early stages of the race.

Simonsen, who was competing in the GT Am class in an all-Danish crew alongside Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen, was leading the class after having qualified his Vantage GTE in pole position.

However, in just his fourth lap he lost control of the car at Tertre Rouge, the corner before the high speed Mulsanne Straight and slewed off the track, hit the barriers and bounced back onto the tarmac. The incident caused the first of many safety car incidents during the race as marshals cleared the debris while Simonsen was taken to hospital.

allan simonsen

Allan Simonsen was an experienced driver who had raced seven times at Le Mans

A few hours later, the race organisers, the ACO, issued a statement which confirmed the worst: "At 15h09 the #95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, driven by Allan Simonsen of Denmark, exited the track at high-speed at the Tertre Rouge corner on his fourth lap of the race.

"In a serious condition, Allan Simonsen was transferred immediately to the circuit medical centre, where he died soon after.”

Simonsen, aged 34, was an experienced driver and had taken part in seven Le Mans races. His was the first fatality at Le Mans since 1997.

The Aston Martin team, which had cars in both BT Pro and GT Am classes, announced it would continue racing after consulting Simonsen’s family.

The race looked to be just about over as a contest with about 75 minutes to go as Kristensen was managing his lead over the Toyota. However, the rain came down at its heaviest forcing teams to pit for wet weather tyres. The situation was made worse when two LMP2 cars crashed in the rain to bring the 11th safety car period. At the same time the #7 Toyota driven by Lapierre hit the barriers at the Porsche Curves and pitted for a new front end, giving the #3 Audi a comfortable lead for third after the two cars had enjoyed a real battle for the final podium place.

le mans toyota

Toyota fought valiantly but fell just short of victory

At the front, Kristensen still held a one lap advantage over Buemi as the clock counted down in the last hour behind the safety car. Racing resumed with just over 30 minutes remaining and Buemi unlapped himself but was unable to do more.

Audi had begun to take real control of the race after the ninth hour when Kristensen increased his advantage and pitted after three hours 22 minutes at the wheel to hand the R18 over to Allan McNish.

Accidents during the night disrupted the rhythm of the race but McNish stayed at the front of the field and actually pulled away from Davidson. The #3 Audi also moved up after a puncture in the seventh hour had cost it time and position.

Worse befell the #1 Audi though when a crank sensor problem meant it spent a lengthy period in the pits, losing 12 laps to the leaders. It effectively meant that drivers Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer would not win a third successive Le Mans. The trio still put in a fine effort though by storming through the field to move into fifth after rejoining from 12th.

Toyota had proved a worthy competitor to Audi and had led early in the race after a furious start to the race in which the two Toyotas homed in on their rivals from the start.

McNish was passed by Lotterer before the pair had got to the Dunlop Bridge while Lapierre moved his Toyota TS030 Hybrid up to second by the end of the first lap.

The leading three cars were fighting tooth and nail as though it was a sprint rather than a 24-hour endurance race and Lapierre and Lotterer swapped the lead until the race was brought to a halt after Simonsen’s crash.

Davidson moved into the lead once the race was restarted but by the end of the fourth hour, Audi held the three podium positions. Toyota wouldn’t lead the race again and although there were moments when they threatened, it was Audi who would take another historic victory.

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  • AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE

    Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°2 driven by Scottish Allan Mc Nish, (C) ahead of Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°1 driven by German Andre Lotterer (R) , Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°3 driven by Brazilian Lucas Di Grassi (L), Toyota TS030 Hybrid N° 7 driven by French Nicolas Lapierre (3rd on the L) and Toyota TS030 Hybrid N° 8 driven by British Anthony Davidson (2ndR) take the start of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race on June 22, 2013, in Le Mans, western France. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE

    Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°2 driven by Scottish Allan Mc Nish, (L) ahead of Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°1 driven by German Andre Lotterer (R) , Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°3 driven by Brazilian Lucas Di Grassi (2ndL), Toyota TS030 Hybrid N° 7 driven by French Nicolas Lapierre (3rd on the L) and Toyota TS030 Hybrid N° 8 driven by British Anthony Davidson (4nd on the R) take the start of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race on June 22, 2013, in Le Mans, western France. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE

    Competitors take the start of the 90th edition of Le Mans 24 Hour Race on June 22, 2013, in Le Mans, western France. AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE

    Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°2 driven by Scottish Allan Mc Nish, (L) Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°1 driven by German Andre Lotterer (R) , Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°3 driven by Brazilian Lucas Di Grassi (back L), Toyota TS030 Hybrid N° 7 (back-R) driven by French Nicolas Lapierre and Toyota TS030 Hybrid N° 8 driven by British Anthony Davidson (3R) take the start of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race on June 22, 2013, in Le Mans, western France. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read jean francois monier/AFP/Getty Images)

  • AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE

    Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°2 driven by Scottish Allan Mc Nish, (L) Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°1 driven by German Andre Lotterer (R) , Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°3 driven by Brazilian Lucas Di Grassi (back L), Toyota TS030 Hybrid N° 7 (back-R) driven by French Nicolas Lapierre and Toyota TS030 Hybrid N° 8 driven by British Anthony Davidson (3R) take the start of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race on June 22, 2013, in Le Mans, western France. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A general view at the start of the 90th 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, in Le Mans, western France, Saturday, June 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Marcel Fassler (SUI) / Andre Lotterer (GER) / Benoit Treluyer (FRA) Audi Sport Team Joest, Audi R18 e-tron quattro.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Anthony Davidson (GBR) / Sebastien Buemi (SUI) / Stephane Sarrazin (FRA) Toyota Racing, Toyota TS030, Hybrid.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Lucas Di Grassi (BRA) / Marc Gene (ESP) / Oliver Jarvis (GBR) Audi Sport Team Joest, Audi R18 e-tron quattro.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Allan Simonsen

    FILE - Danish Driver Allan Simonsen, left, is seen during a parade on the eve of the 90th 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, in Le Mans, western France, in this Friday, June 21, 2013 photo. The No.95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, driven by Simonsen, exited the track at high speed at the "Tertre Rouge" corner on his fourth lap of the race, He died after due to his injuries, Saturday, June 22, 2013.(AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

  • The No.95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE is seen after the crash which killed the driver Allan Simonsen of Denmerk , during the Le Mans 24 hour car race Saturday, June 22, 2013. The No.95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, driven by Simonsen, exited the track at high speed at the "Tertre Rouge" corner on his fourth lap of the race, and Simonsen died of his injuries, Saturday. (AP Photo)

  • The garage of the No.95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, driven by Allan Simonsen of Denmerk is shuttered after his crash Saturday, June 22, 2013. The Aston Martin Vantage , driven by Simonsen, exited the track at high speed at the "Tertre Rouge" corner on his fourth lap of the race. He died later due to his injuries.(AP Photo)

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Marcel Fassler (SUI) / Andre Lotterer (GER) / Benoit Treluyer (FRA) Audi Sport Team Joest, Audi R18 e-tron quattro.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Ryan Dalziel (GBR) / Dominik Farnbacher (GER) / Marc Goossens (BEL) SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Anthony Davidson (GBR) / Sebastien Buemi (SUI) / Stephane Sarrazin (FRA) Toyota Racing, Toyota TS030, Hybrid.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Bill Auberlen (USA) / Paul Dalla Lana (CDN) / Pedro Lamy (POR) Aston Martin Vantage V8.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

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    Bruno Senna (BRA) / Frederic Makowiecki (FRA) / Rob Bell (GBR) Aston Martin Vantage V8.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

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    Jacques Nicolet (FRA) / Jean-Marc Merlin (FRA) / Philippe Mondolot (FRA) Oak Racing, Morgan - Nissan.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Alexander Wurz (AUT) / Nicolas Lapierre (FRA) / Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Toyota Racing, Toyota TS030, Hybrid.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

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    Jack Gerber (RSA) / Matt Griffin (IRE) / Marco Cioci (ITA) AF Corse, Ferrari F458 Italia.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Marcel Fassler (SUI) / Andre Lotterer (GER) / Benoit Treluyer (FRA) Audi Sport Team Joest, Audi R18 e-tron quattro.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Simon Dolan (GBR) / Oliver Turvey (GBR) / Lucas Luhr (GER) Jota, Zytek Z11SN - Nissan.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Marcel Fassler (SUI) / Andre Lotterer (GER) / Benoit Treluyer (FRA) Audi Sport Team Joest, Audi R18 e-tron quattro (Right) leads Tom Kristensen (DEN) / Loic Duval (FRA) / Allan McNish (GBR) Audi Sport Team Joest, Audi R18 e-tron quattro (Centre) and Lucas Di Grassi (BRA) / Marc Gene (ESP) / Oliver Jarvis (GBR) Audi Sport Team Joest, Audi R18 e-tron quattro (Left) at the start of the race.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • The Audi R18 E-Tron No1, front, driven by Andre Lotterer of Germany, Marcel Fassler of Switzerland and Benoit Treluyer of France is seen in action during the 90th 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, in Le Mans, western France, Friday, June 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

  • AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE

    Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°1 driven by Germany's Andre Lotterer (R) competes ahead of Toyota TS030 Hybrid N° 7 driven by France's Nicolas Lapierre ( L) during the 90th Le Mans 24 Hours Race on June 22, 2013, in Le Mans, western France. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read jean francois monier/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Mechanics of the Audi R18 E-Tron No1 driven by Andre Lotterer of Germany, Marcel Fassler of Switzerland and Benoit Treluyer of France are seen in action during the 90th 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, in Le Mans, western France, Friday, June 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

  • Mechanics of the Morgan Nissan driven by Julien Nicolet of France, Jean-Marie Merlin of France and Philippe Mondolot of France are seen in action during the 90th 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, in Le Mans, western France, Friday, June 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

  • AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE

    US actor Patrick Dempsey in his pit after a relay in his Porsche 911 N°77 during the 90th 24-hours of Le Mans endurance race on June 23, 2013, in Le Mans, western France. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read jean francois monier/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Le Mans 24h Race

    LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Cars drive along the main grandstand straight during the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 23, 2013 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

  • AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE

    Audi R18 e-tron quattro N°2 driven by Danish Tom Kristensen competes during the 90th 24-hours of Le Mans endurance race on June 23, 2013, in Le Mans, western France. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER (Photo credit should read jean francois monier/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Le Mans 24h Race

    LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Mechanics at work in the Murphy Prototypes garage during the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 23, 2013 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

  • Le Mans 24h Race

    LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Mechanics rest in the Murphy Prototypes garage during the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 23, 2013 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

  • Le Mans 24h Race

    LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Mechanics rest in the Murphy Prototypes garage during the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 23, 2013 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

  • Le Mans 24h Race

    LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Karun Chandhok of India and Murphy Prototypes drives in for a pitstop during the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 23, 2013 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

  • Le Mans 24h Race

    LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Mechanics rest in the Murphy Prototypes garage during the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 23, 2013 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Olivier Beretta (MON) / Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) / Toni Vilander (FIN) AF Corse, Ferrari F458 Italia.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Roald Goethe (GER) / Stuart Hall (GBR) / Jamie Campbell-Walter (GBR) Aston Martin Vantage V8.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Yannick Mallegol (FRA) / Jean-Marc Bachelier (FRA) / Howard Blank (USA) AF Corse, Ferrari F458 Italia.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Le Mans 24h Race

    LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 22: The Audi Sport e-tron quattro of Lucas Di Grassi, Marc Gene and Oliver Jarvis drives during the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 22, 2013 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    The podium flies the Danish flag at half mast as a tribute to Allan Simonsen (DEN) Aston Martin Vantage V8, who suffered a fatal accident in the race.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • The Toyota TS-030 No8 driven by Anthony Davidson of Great Britain, Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland and Stephane Sarrazin of France in action during the 90th 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, in Le Mans, western France, Sunday, June 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Anthony Davidson (GBR) Toyota Racing, Toyota TS030, Hybrid.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Lucas Di Grassi (BRA) / Marc Gene (ESP) / Oliver Jarvis (GBR) Audi Sport Team Joest, Audi R18 e-tron quattro.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Bruno Senna (BRA) Aston Martin Vantage V8.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.

  • Motor Racing - Le Mans 24 Hours Race - Le Mans, France

    Andrea Belicchi (ITA) / Mathias Beche (SUI) / Cong Fu Cheng (CHN) Rebellion Racing, Lola B12/60 Coupe, Toyota.Le Mans 24 Hours Race, Saturday 22nd June 2013. Le Mans, France.