There was the public Tom Kristensen,
always affable and willing to talk with fans
and the media. But there was also the TK
inside the Audi garage, the one whose
force of personality and focus drove him
to record-breaking feats at Le Mans and
galvanized the teams around him.
“I wouldn’t say he was combative,” says
Audi Sport Team Joest managing director
Ralf Juttner with a knowing grin, “but there
was your way, Tom’s way, and then however
long it would take to accept Tom’s way.”
The Dane wasn’t necessarily enforcing his
will for personal gain or special treatment;
he pushed his co-drivers to attain higher
fitness levels; prodded engineers and
strategists to consider new options; and
steered other aspects of the team wherever
he saw improvements to be made.
“He put his own interests below his
teammates’, if necessary, or below those of
the whole team,” Juttner adds. “This
attitude has spread. I think this is something
that is within the flesh and blood now at
Audi Sport. Tom could be a hard team
member, but in the right way. He only
FORCE OF PERSONALITY
“It took us a little bit of time to settle in
together because we were both very strong
in our opinions,” McNish admits. “It created
some dramas at times, but Tom’s opinions
were driven by a desire to have success, and
I’m the same way. We understood each
other on a profound level.”
The lighter side of Kristensen was also
demonstrated throughout his career.
Despite all the success he’s earned, former
teammate Stefan Johansson says the
young lion he drove to victory with in
1997 still shines through today.
“After we won the race in 1997, Tom and I
were sitting on our own, back at this cheap
ass hotel in France, and we couldn’t even get
any food!” the Swede recalls. “We ended up
with this nasty old ham and cheese sandwich.
And we’re sitting there after this amazing
victory like, ‘this is it?’ We’d just won the
24 Hours of Le Mans and we’re sitting here
nibbling away at a crappy sandwich? We just
looked at each other and kept laughing.
“He’s obviously older now, but he’s still
that same guy that he always was, totally
normal, with great wit and great humor.”
For Tom Kristensen, winning Le Mans meant getting the most out of his teammates, not just himself.
considered what was best for the team.”
Possibly the strongest bond forged
between Audi teammates took place with
TK and Allan McNish. Cut from the same
cloth, pairing two pit vipers in the same
prototype could have been a catastrophe,
but the wee Scot says they quickly blended
their charged personalities.
Putting two guys as assertive as Tom
Kristensen and Allan McNish in the
same car shouldn’t have worked, but it
did. They won Le Mans twice together.
Tom Kristensen shared his nine Le Mans
wins with 11 other drivers. Statistically,
the strongest lineup was with Frank Biela
and Emanuele Pirro, with consecutive
victories in 2000, ’01 and ’02 (ABOVE).
TOM KRISTENSEN – MR. LE MANS