Tom Kristensen: The 24 Hours of Le Mans in September will be something special
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Tom Kristensen: The 24 Hours of Le Mans in September will be something special

In our live Instagram Q&A session yesterday, nine-time winner of Le Mans 24 Hours, Tom Kristensen gave his views about the forthcoming race on 19–20 September and current events in motor racing as well as sharing a few memories.

This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, in September

“It was no surprise and I think the ACO was right to take the decision early to postpone the race. It’s not the first time the race has been run in September. The first time was in 1968. I’m almost old enough to remember, but I was only one year old! It will be very strange to be in June and have no race to go to. Normally, when my hayfever kicks in I know it’s time for the yearly pilgrimage to Le Mans. In September, the night will be longer and it might be cooler too and the rain might take longer to dry. It will make a difference, there’s no doubt about that. But the main difference will be that the drivers and teams will not have raced much before. Normally there’s a run-up to Le Mans. So yes, it will be different and therefore special, and we should treat it as such."

ACO-IMSA convergence

"In my view, cooperation is always a good thing and so convergence between the USA and Europe is the way to go. When you pool resources, you can create a great platform that makes for great racing."

Best choice for Peugeot’s Le Mans comeback? Hypercar or LMDh?

"It’s too difficult for me to answer that question. I’m not part of that discussion. If Toyota goes for a Hypercar, then Peugeot should too. If LMDh attracts a lot of teams, then it would make sense for everyone to do the same. That’s my opinion. But I think Peugeot boardmembers pay more attention to their engineers! It’s fantastic that they’re coming back, in any case."

Hydrogen at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

"I think it’s the right way to go and it seems efficient for Le Mans. It’s the right approach. Once the industry focuses on it, it will become more competitive."

"In 1997, Ralf Jüttner called me when I was playing tennis."
Tom Kristensen

Most significant win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

"It’s difficult to say. My first win is unique because it laid the groundwork for the rest. I learned a lot, the hard way, with BMW in 1998 and 1999. In 1998 we pulled out after three hours when we were running third. In ‘99 we had a four lap lead when JJ Lehto went off.
Because of that, when I joined Audi my teammates Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela didn’t find me very optimistic. But those two years were character building and taught me how to have the right attitude at Le Mans. If you start to believe you’re doing well, be careful because it’s not over ‘til it’s over. Thanks to that experience and the teamwork with Audi, we started the ball rolling."

First Le Mans in 1997

"Ralf Jüttner called me when I was playing tennis. It was just a few days before the race. I was part of a crew with Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson. I’d never seen the track before, never been in the car before, so I was starstruck. And I had a hungry heart, I was eager to avoid mistakes. I really fell in love with the best race in the world that week. At the end of that week, we had won the race, my debut race. I even managed to pull off a lap record during the night. It was very special for me and something I’ll never forget. The emotion is incredible. Back then, the team consisted of 12 mechanics, so it was a very small close-knit group led by Reinhold Joest. It’s an experience I share with them forever."

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Favourite car at Le Mans 24 Hours

"The [Audi] R8 has pride of place in my heart as five of my victories were with the R8. Three of them with the factory team and two with private teams, Japan Team Goh and Champion Racing. The most beautiful, the most elegant car I drove was the Bentley Speed 8 I won with in 2003. The most aggressive looking and the most efficient was the hybrid, the Audi R18 I shared with Loïc Duval and Allan McNish in 2013. They are three very important cars. But every car you drive at Le Mans is special."

What do you miss about racing?

"I miss racing full stop. I don’t believe any retired racing driver can truthfully say they don’t miss racing. It was passion, my love, it was what I’d wanted to do since I was 8 or 9 years old. Some say I retired too late. Thankfully, others say I retired too early. I listened to several racing icons who said I would know when it was the right moment. I miss racing, but it’s not the same as wanting to come back. I take part in historic events which is a fantastic privilege. It’s also great to see the hunger and determination on the faces of younger racing drivers."

Tom Kristensen’s record at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

  • 18 starts between 1997 and 2014
  • 9 victories (1997, 2000–2006, 2008 and 2013) - a 1 in 2 success rate
  • 14 podiums (nine wins plus 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014)
  • 4 DNF (1998, 1999, 2007, 2011)
  • 3 fastest laps in race (1997, 2002, 2006)
  • 1 pole position (2003)