Allan McNish has escaped apparently unhurt from a horrific accident just under an hour into the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours.

After passing Franck Montagny's Peugeot 908 for third place on lap seven, a feisty-looking McNish proceeded to home in on Audi team-mates Timo Bernhard and Beno?t Tr?luyer. The fastest man on the track in the #3 R18 TDi, he swiftly relieved Tr?luyer of second and closed to within just four tenths of leader Bernhard beginning lap 14.

Just after passing under the Dunlop Bridge, the Scot overtook his team-mate to assume the lead, but he then immediately also dived down the inside of the lapped Luxury Racing Ferrari of Anthony Beltoise, before prematurely moving over on the 458 Italia and clipping it at the rear, sending him sideways across its bows and the pair of them hurtling into the gravel trap.

McNish's Audi slammed broadside into the tyre barriers and flipped up into the air, coming perilously close to vaulting over the catch-fencing and into the marshals and photographers' enclosure just beyond. How ever it didn't was a miraculous stroke of good fortune, and had its driver still been in an open-top car as was the case with the R15 last year, the consequences would have been unthinkable.

Debris - including a wheel from the destroyed R18 - scattered into the enclosure, and it can only be hoped that no injuries were sustained.

A note on McNish's Facebook page states: 'We have been in contact with Allan - he is fine, been checked by the Audi doctors, the circuit medical centre and the hospital at Le Mans and he has been given the all-clear.'

With the tyre barriers needing to be rebuilt, the safety car is presently on-track for a sustained period, with Bernhard leading from Tr?luyer and the Peugeots of Montagny, Alex Wurz and S?bastien Bourdais.

To see the video of the accident, click here