TOM KRISTENSEN – MR. LE MANS
finding a full-time job in racing,” he says. “I
jumped at the chance to race in Japan with
no second thought, and my time there
proved very important. I drove for proper
teams, and it helped to race in different
disciplines: front-wheel drive, rear-wheel
drive, powerful cars, slower cars, narrow
tires, wide tires, whatever. Basically, every
weekend was completely filled with racing.”
Kristensen spent four years winning and
earning in Japan, and by the end of 1995,
his pace and tenacity could no longer be
ignored in Europe, and International
F3000 beckoned for ’ 96. His first attempt
to reach F1’s feeder series had failed, and
after a circuitous and humbling route that
led him to Japan and back, he returned
home a hardened professional.
A win and multiple podiums followed in
two seasons of F3000, but with the top
seats out of reach, reality began to set in.
By the time Le Mans entered Kristensen’s
field of view in 1997, his career was hurtling
towards a fork in the road. At 29 years old,
he found himself in an unenviable situation
– the elder statesman of Europe’s junior
open-wheel racing scene. With his F1 dreams
fading, Kristensen risked falling into the life
of a journeyman driver, the full measure of
his abilities hidden from the world.
Fate, however, was waiting to send TK
(ABOVE) The evening
sun lights up TK in
practice for the 2001
24 Hours of Le Mans.
Rain then dominated
the race, and the
2,723 miles completed
are the lowest of the
Dane’s nine victories.
With nine wins from 18 starts in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Tom Kristensen has
posted the kind of numbers unlikely to be beaten in decades. Remarkably, he
also added five other podium finishes, namely two seconds and three thirds.
NUMBER NINE DREAM
No. 1 1997
Co-drivers: Michele Alboreto/Stefan
Johansson. Car: TWR Porsche
WSC- 95. Class: LMP. Team: Joest
Racing. Laps completed: 361
No. 2 2000
Co-drivers: Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro.
Car: Audi R8. Class: LMP900.
Team: Audi Sport Team Joest.
Laps completed: 368
No. 5 2003
Speed 8. Class:
Laps comp.: 377 No. 7 2005
Co-drivers: JJ Lehto/
Car: Audi R8. Class:
LMP1. Team: ADT
Laps completed: 370
No. 6 2004
Co-drivers: Seiji Ara/Rinaldo
Capello. Car: Audi R8. Class:
LMP1. Team: Audi Sport Japan
Team Goh. Laps completed: 379
No. 3 2001
Co-drivers: Frank Biela/
Car: Audi R8. Class:
LMP900. Team: Audi
Sport Team Joest.
Laps completed: 321
No. 4 2002
Pirro. Car: Audi R8.
Team: Audi Sport
Team Joest. Laps
l Audi Sport then
takes a three-year
the stage to its
No. 8 2008
Car: Audi R10 TDI.
Class: LMP1. Team:
Audi Sport North
No. 9 2013
Co-drivers: Allan McNish/Loic Duval. Car: Audi
R18 e-tron quattro. Class: LMP1. Team: Audi
Sport Team Joest. Laps completed: 348
l A year on, TK was second in his final Le Mans.