The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Defending champion Loic Duval crashes at 24 Hours of Le Mans, taken to hospital

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LE MANS, France - The Audi No. 1 of defending champion Loic Duval was smashed to pieces an hour into a practice session at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Wednesday.

The French driver was taken out of the car and carried into an ambulance.

"Duval is alert. He will be transported from the Medical Center to the hospital for further examinations," Audi Sport tweeted.

The practice was red-flagged after the accident.

The crash happened a year after Allan Simonsen died during the race. The Danish driver's Aston Martin spun out at high speed only 10 minutes into the race and skidded into a barrier. Simonsen died at the hospital.

Last year, Duval gave Audi a 12th title at the famed endurance race, four shy of Porsche's record.

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