Mr Le Mans: meets Tom Kristensen, nine times winner Car News

The title of his new autobiography says it all: Mr Le Mans, Tom Kristensen. Except that this is not the case, because despite all his record exploits at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race he has won nine times in 18 attempts, including six in a row, there has always been a lot more for the Great Dane. than the Big One in France. The best racing driver to never start a grand prix? Probably. But who cares if he never lined up in a Minardi, Tyrrell, or even a decent Williams? It was the loss of Formula 1. Instead, Kristensen chose her own path and built a wonderful career driving a selection of great racing cars in all kinds of fascinating corners of the world. And almost every time he did, he was blazingly fast.

The book, written in collaboration with sports journalist Dan Philipsen, was first published in Denmark in 2018 and is now available in English. To mark this post, Autocar caught up with Kristensen to capture a snapshot of his remarkable career.

Become Japanese

In the mid-1990s, Kristensen joined the crowd of European talent heading east to seek their racing fortune. For Eddie Irvine, Jacques Villeneuve, Mika Salo and many others, the Japanese scene has been a catapult to success in F1 and beyond. Kristensen spent four years there, driving everything from Formula 3 and Formula 3000 single-seaters to Group A sedans and Group C sports cars.

“I went to Japan as the German F3 champion, so there were a lot of expectations, and it was difficult,” said Kristensen. “I didn’t come back to Europe between races, I stayed, and that meant I was driving a lot of different cars. After a few weeks, my F3 team, Tom’s, suggested driving in Group A touring cars, in a Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 right-hand drive on Toyo tires. It took a staircase to get into this car: it was four-wheel drive and very heavy, a complete contrast to my small and light F3 – and I loved it. It’s a cult car.

“I also raced in the Toyota TS010 Group C car designed by Tony Southgate. [at Mine, sharing with Irvine and Villeneuve]. It was the most aggressive car I have driven there. It was very fast and incredibly stiff, with a nice, F1-style 3.5-liter V10 engine.

Plans to join Toyota at Le Mans were flawed, delaying its racing debut by four years. “It wasn’t a 24 hour endurance car,” he says. “Everything screamed to the extreme. I can see why they had problems at Le Mans.

Do you remember the first time?

Back in Europe, Kristensen shone in the International F3000, before receiving a fateful call from Ralf Juttner at Joest Racing a few days before the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1997. Joining Ferrari F1 veterans Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson, he achieved a breathtaking performance to win a first victory. At Goodwood Speedweek last year, he encountered the Porsche-powered TWR WSC95 for the first time since.

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This notice was published: 2021-04-18 05:01:25