Kristensen's Record Seven Wins

Denmark's Tom Kristensen: winner of a record-breaking seven 24 Hour of Le Mans victories

Kristensen's Record Seven Wins

TWR Joest Porsche WSC95 with
Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson

Kristensen received the telephone call from Joest engineer Ralf Juttner while he was out on his mountain bike, and chose to drive for the German team rather than accept an invitation from Fabien Roock to drive a Porsche. The car was dominant, claiming pole position, the fastest lap and the overall victory.


Joest Audi R8 with
Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela

Audi entered three of their new R8 prototype chassis and signed Kristensen from BMW to drive one. The two other R8s needed to change their rear end structure, including the gearbox, each change costing six minutes. Kristensen's car had two cut tyres, neither of which slowed progress, and they raced to a comfortable one-lap win.


Joest Audi R8 with
Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela

Remembered by many veterans as the wettest Le Mans in history, the factory Audi team arrived at the trials weekend in sombre mood. Kristensen had shared his first win with Michele Alboreto in 1997, the Italian killed just weeks before the trials weekend while testing the R8. The Joest R8s ran reliably throughout the race, though the customer cars from Champion and Johansson both retired.


Joest Audi R8 with
Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela

The three drivers became the first pairing to win the race three times in a row, the first drivers to win a hat-trick together, and the first drivers since Henri Pescarolo in 1972-1974 to score three successive Le Mans wins for the same manufacturer. Their show of dominance was astounding, but it was no co-incidence that Kristensen was again in the fastest car.


Bentley EXP Speed 8 with
Guy Smith and Rinaldo Capello

Kristensen again anchored the team and it was Smith who was given the honour of crossing the line to record Bentley's first win in modern times. The bad luck hit the sister car, including two changes of the battery and an extra pit stop to repair the driver's head-rest but it was enough for them to drop to second.


Team Goh Audi R8 with
Rinaldo Capello and Seiji Ara

Capello dropped the car into the gravel on Saturday afternoon and it caught fire in the pits on Sunday, but worse luck hit the Audi UK squad, which was forced to repair the rear suspension in the pit lane with an angle grinder. The Japanese car took a famous win, one that matched Jacky Ickx's record of six wins and set him up for a shot at the outright record in 2005.


Champion Racing Audi R8 with
Marco Werner and JJ Lehto

Kristensen went into the race doubting whether he could take victory after the all-conquering R8 was handed weight and air-restrictor penalties. The car was not the fastest but was the best - despite having qualified in eighth, Kristensen brought it home to stand alone as the driver with more Le Mans 24 Hour wins than any other.

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Series WEC
Author Andrew Cotton
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