Danish driver Tom Kristensen’s motorsport legacy will forever be linked with the 24 Hours of Le Mans – a race he won an astonishing nine times.
Kristensen’s first win came 20 years ago, in 1997, on his first attempt. Kristensen only secured a drive in a Joest Racing TWR Porsche WSC-95 the week before the race, with the team questioning if the Formula 3000 racer’s skills would translate from single-seaters to sports cars.
Clearly, they did.
After winning with Joest, Kristensen spent two years with the works BMW team before a career-defining switch to Audi for 2000. He effectively spent the rest of his career with the manufacturer (Audi didn’t run a works team between 2003 and 2005, so Kristensen drove for Bentley and privateer teams).
Kristensen retired from driving at the end of 2014, having set a new record for the most Le Mans wins by a driver. His career will be celebrated at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend, with a collection of his cars on show.
We caught up with Kristensen, and asked for some of his memories.
How does it feel to be celebrated at the Festival?
“It’s great. I was very happy, and pleasantly surprised, when Lord March’s team said they wanted to have a 20-year celebration. At first I said, ’20 years, really? Where has that gone?’ But then you start to look at all the cars, the team-mates and the races, and you realise how long it’s been.”
You’re driving up the hill in the Audi R8 you drove to win Le Mans in 2000 – before the car is retired to Audi’s museum…
“That will be very special. I’m there to enjoy the moment. I’ll go slowly up the hill, but I’m sure I’ll rev it higher than I should to give the crowd a thrill.
“Allan McNish will be driving the sister car from that year, and the R8 marks the beginning of Audi’s long journey in sports cars. The Porsche from 1997 will be on display, and the BMW I drove in 1999 and won the Sebring 12 Hours with will be driven by Steve Soper. It should be a nice celebration.”