Jacky Ickx was known as the greatest Le Mans driver of all time for so long and his six wins seemed unbeatable. When Tom Kristensen surpassed that tally in 2005 it was akin to Michael Schumacher’s demolition of Formula 1’s long-standing record book. A winner on debut at both Le Mans and Sebring – he had established new records for most victories at both legendary venues by the time he retired from racing.
Upbringing and early racing career
The son of a Paris-Dakar competitor, Kristensen began karting in 1977 and his multiple title wins included the 1985 Scandinavian crown. He switched to Formula Ford 2000 in 1987 although he returned to karts to finish second in the 1987 World Championship at Jesolo.
Winner of the German and Japanese Formula 3 titles in 1991 and 1993 respectively, he finished second at Macau and won the Fuji invitational that latter year when driving a works TOM’s Toyota 033F. Kristensen continued racing in Japan and was runner-up behind Toshio Suzuki in the 1995 Formula 3000 Championship with Cerumo’s Lola-Mugen. He also finished second in the national touring car series on two occasions.
International Formula 3000
The Dane returned to European racing with Shannon Racing Italia in the 1996 FIA F3000 Championship. Fourth in the opening round at the Nürburgring, he qualified on pole position next time out at Pau. But the team folded before round three and Kristensen returned with Edenbridge Racing. Second at Silverstone and on pole again before finishing third at Spa-Francorchamps – he was sixth equal in the championship despite missing three races.
He was signed by Auto Sport Racing for the 1997 F3000 campaign and won the opening race at Silverstone. Second next time out at Pau was one of two further podium finishes. However, Kristensen was only classified sixth once more as accidents, including crashing out of the lead at Spa-Francorchamps’ Blanchimont Corner at approximately 160mph, blunted his challenge.
Winning at Le Mans
However, he had already embarked on his record-breaking Le Mans career by then. Kristensen made his debut in the 24-hour race in June 1997 when paired with Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson in a Joest Porsche WSC95. Running second when the leading works car retired with three hours to go, they were on hand to inherit victory.
Tyrrell’s Formula 1 reserve driver during its last season in 1998, testing a Williams FW21-Supertec a year later and Michelin’s 2000 development driver as it prepared for its return to the category was as close as Kristensen would come to Grand Prix racing.
Third in the 1999 German Super Touring Car Championship, he won on his debut in the Sebring 12 Hours that year with a BMW V12 LMR and led at Le Mans before forced to retire while in contention for victory.
The move to Audi
A move to Audi for 2000 heralded a period of unprecedented sports car domination by the marque and Kristensen always seemed to be in the right car at the right time. Six Le Mans victories in succession (including in 2003 with a Bentley EXP "Speed Eight") meant that he passed Jacky Ickx’s record at Circuit de la Sarthe in 2005.
Two years without victory in the great race, Kristensen added a record eighth victory in the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours after rain negated Peugeot’s speed advantage. He was the 2002 American Le Mans Series Champion and he won the Sebring 12 Hours for a record sixth occasion 10 years later.
Also second at Le Mans in 2012, Kristensen and McNish finished runners-up in that year’s World Endurance Championship behind team-mates Benoît Tréluyer, André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler. He won the Le Mans 24 Hours for a record ninth time in 2013 and was crowned as that year's World Endurance Champion with co-drivers Allan McNish and Loïc Duval.
DTM title challenge and retirement
Kristensen also won races in Germany’s DTM series for Audi and challenged Bernd Schneider for the title in 2006. However, the following season began with Kristensen triggering a huge accident on the first lap of the opening DTM race at Hockenheim. He spun in the pack and was lucky to escape injury after being T-boned by three cars.
Twice Danish Sportsman of the Year and among sports car racing’s greatest drivers, the affable Kristensen was second at Le Mans once more in 2014 during his final season before retirement.
|2014||World Endurance Championship||8||0||8||4||0||4th||117|
|2013||World Endurance Championship (LMP1)||8||2||8||7||3||1st||162|
|2012||Blancpain Endurance Series||6||22nd||10|
|2012||World Endurance Championship||8||2||8||7||1||2nd||159|
|2011||Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft||10||0||1||0||0|
0% win rate
|2011||Intercontinental Le Mans Cup||2||0||1||0||0||0|
|2010||Le Mans Series||5||29th||13|
|2009||Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft||10||2||10||2||1|
10% win rate
|2009||American Le Mans Series||10||0||1||1||1||0|
|2008||Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft||11||2||11||3||0|
0% win rate
|2007||Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft||10||1||7||0||0|
0% win rate
|2006||Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft||10||2||10||6||2|
20% win rate
|2006||American Le Mans Series||10||1||1||1||1||0|
|2005||American Le Mans Series||10||1||1||1||1||0|
|2005||Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft||11||2||11||5||0|
0% win rate
|2004||Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft||10||0||10||2||1|
10% win rate
|2004||Le Mans Endurance Series||4||18th||6|
|2003||FIA Sportscar Championship||7||1||1||1||1||0|
|2002||American Le Mans Series||10||0||4||4||4||1st||0|
|2001||American Le Mans Series||10||4||4||4||4||20|
|2000||American Le Mans Series||12||1||1||1||1||0|
|1999||American Le Mans Series||8||1||1||1||1||0|
|1997||FIA International F3000 Championship||10||2||9||3||1|
12% win rate
|1996||FIA International F3000 Championship||10||2||7||2||0|
0% win rate
|1993||All-Japan F3 Championship||1st||0|
|1991||German F3 Championship||1st||0|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||12/06/2010||Le Mans||397||3rd|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||13/06/2009||Le Mans||382||3rd|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||14/06/2008||Le Mans||381||1st|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||16/06/2007||Le Mans||369||R|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||17/06/2006||Le Mans||380||3rd|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||18/06/2005||Le Mans||370||1st|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||12/06/2004||Le Mans||379||1st|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||14/06/2003||Le Mans||377||1st|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||15/06/2002||Le Mans||375||1st|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||16/06/2001||Le Mans||321||1st|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||17/06/2000||Le Mans||368||1st|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||12/06/1999||Le Mans||366||R|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||06/06/1998||Le Mans||351||R|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||14/06/1997||Le Mans||361||1st|