Dane breaks Jacky Ickx’s Le Mans wins record in Audi R8
British Le Mans legend Derek Bell has lauded Tom Kristensen for breaking Jacky Ickx’s record of six wins in the 24-hour classic, but has warned against comparing the “remarkable feat” with the achievements of his old driving partner.
Driving a Champion Racing Audi R8, Kristensen stamped his name in the record books in June with his seventh Le Mans win. Incredibly, it was his sixth victory in a row at the Circuit de la Sarthe and his fifth in an R8. He took his first Le Mans scalp in a Joest Porsche WSC95 in 1997 and was a member of Bentley’s winning crew in 2003.
In the wake of his latest victory, Kristensen was quick to play down comparisons with Ickx, despite scoring his seven wins in just nine years. The 38-year-old Dane described Ickx, who notched up his Le Mans half-dozen between 1969 and ’82, as “still Mr Le Mans to me.”
Bell, who shared three of his five Le Mans wins with Ickx, said: “Bloody good for Tom. It’s fantastic to have that ability to never make a mistake. Tom would be the first to admit that he has always been in the best team and car, but to pick the right team-mates and the right car every time is incredible.”
As Kristensen himself pointed out, much of the credit for his run of success must go to Audi. Bell said: “In Tom’s era there have always been three or four Audis, or a couple of Bentleys in the case of 2003, and those cars were always going to win. When we were driving for Porsche there were at least 16 other cars that could have won. Tom has driven for the best teams in the world and these days the cars are so reliable. The R8 has rarely failed to finish a 24-hour race. It is the most perfect car there has ever been.”
But Bell did admit to one comparison that does stand up between Kristensen and Ickx: “Tom’s had the most incredible luck. But Jacky was always a lucky bugger too, which is why I wanted to partner him.
“Jacky once wrote to me to say that to win Le Mans we needed the best car, the best engineer and the best luck, and that is what Tom has had. It’s wonderful. In the past I’ve sometimes felt ‘that could have been me,’ but not this time. He totally deserves it.”
FactFile — Multiple Le Mans winners
Tom Kristensen — 1997/2000/01/02/03/04/05 — 7
Jackie Ickx — 1969/1975/76/77/1981/82 — 6
Derek Bell — 1975/1981/82/86/87 — 5
Olivier Gendebien — 1958/1960/61/62 4
Henri Pescarolo — 1972/73/74/1984 4
Yannick Dalmas — 1992/94/95/99 4
Woolf Barnato — 1928/29/1930 3
Luigi Chinetti — 1932/34/1949 3
Hurley Haywood — 1977/1983/1994 3
Klaus Ludwig — 1979/1984/85 3
Al Holbert — 1983/86/87 3
Frank Biela — 2000/01/02 3
Emanuele Pirro — 2000/01/02 3