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Friday favourite: The surprise choice car of ‘Mr Le Mans’

As the driver most closely associated with the Le Mans 24 Hours, Tom Kristensen might be expected to select one of his winning machines as his favourite car. Not so, when the Dane chatted with Autosport for our ongoing weekly series

1967 Volkswagen T1 bus of Tom Kristensen

Nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen is spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a favourite car. He won the world’s most prestigious endurance race five times in an Audi R8, and once each in a Porsche WSC-95, Bentley Speed 8, Audi R10 and Audi R18.

“The most elegant is certainly the Bentley,” he says.

Then there are his six Sebring 12 Hour wins to consider; two in the R8 and individual successes in the BMW V12 LMR, Audi R10, R15 and R18. It was also the R18 with which he finally added the accolade of world champion to his CV in the 2013 World Endurance Championship.

And still there are more contenders in the mix.

“Also I enjoyed testing the Group C with Toyota in Japan, the TS010,” says Kristensen, who finished fourth in his single outing with the car alongside Jacques Villeneuve and Eddie Irvine in the 1992 Japanese Sports Prototype Championship at Mine. “That’s certainly a very aggressive car.”

But the Dane has a surprise in store when Autosport asks him to pick a favourite.

“I will go with my VW T1 bus from 1967, that’s my favourite car,” he says.

Starter motor problems, a reluctance to go quickly and shoddy suspension aside, Kristensen relishes time spent in his 1967 Volkswagen T1

Starter motor problems, a reluctance to go quickly and shoddy suspension aside, Kristensen relishes time spent in his 1967 Volkswagen T1

Photo by: Tom Kristensen

“The whole family love the car. It’s sort of a Begonia red and white, it’s a lovely old car. And my favourite moment with that was the first time during that year, maybe three or four years ago when the sun came up, we decided to go to a small island called Samsø with the family.

"Every time we had to start it, we had to jump-start it, so everyone out of the bus, jump-starting the car and on we went" Tom Kristensen

“We filled it up, we were seven people, we drove off and already close to the ferry, the car had a problem with the starter. Every time we had to start it, we had to jump-start it, so everyone out of the bus, jump-starting the car and on we went.

“And how it was to drive? It’s terrible. It’s really not very well sprung and its favourite speed is between 73 to 85 km/h, in that zone – a little bit faster than that and it doesn’t like it.”

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Of his racing cars, Kristensen reckons the R8 was the pick of the bunch. It was with Champion Racing’s R8 in 2005 that he broke Jacky Ickx’s record of six Le Mans wins that many thought would never be surpassed, when the much faster Pescarolos hit trouble.

“There’s no doubt that it’s very close to my heart,” he says of the R8. And no wonder, given that he was in the winning lineup on all five occasions when it crossed the line first, including three in a row with the factory team from 2000 to 2002. “It is of course something unique.”

Kristensen, together with Emanuele Pirro (left) and Frank Biela (right), won Le Mans three times in a row with the R8 between 2000-2002

Kristensen, together with Emanuele Pirro (left) and Frank Biela (right), won Le Mans three times in a row with the R8 between 2000-2002

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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