'I was hit at 125mph': The harrowing crash that nearly ended Tom Kristensen's career

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In this month's edition of Motor Sport, Tom Kristensen recalls the horrifying shunt which almost made him quit racing


Tom Kristensen tells Motor Sport this month about the crash which nearly made him quit racing for good


Tom Kristensen had only a brief moment to catch his breath and brace himself as a charging and unsighted DTM pack bore down on his Audi A4, which was stranded in the middle of the Hockenheim Parabolica.

Engulfed by a tyre-smokescreen, Kristensen realised he was a sitting duck. Then came the first impact…

Interviewed in this month’s edition of Motor Sport, Kristensen – the most successful Le Mans driver of all time – spoke about suffering and recovering from that crash, one which nearly made him quit racing for good.

“Mentally, it was incredibly tough for me to come back. It was a huge setback.” he said.

That opening round of the 2007 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters at Hockenheim was set to be as fiercely contested as ever.

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Kristensen had finished the 2006 DTM season third for Audi, and was looking to press on for a title win in 2007. On that day in April he lined up fifth on the grid, but fell to sixth after losing out at Turn One.

Thing went downhill even further from there:

“It was rare for me to crash, but on the first lap of a DTM race there are a lot of wild, hungry drivers all fighting for the lead,” he remembers.

“At Turn Four, I got a tap from my team-mate – I’d gone over the kerb trying to avoid that – and my first reaction was to try and keep my car out of the barrier.”

As often seen when a driver loses control, Kristensen kept his foot in, hoping to stay on the road and spin the car back around as soon as possible.

However, this decision had an unfortunate side-effect:

“I was now in a wild spin, sort of hidden in a tyre smokescreen, so I was in danger from the cars coming from behind.

“I was hit by Alexandre Prémat. He was doing nearly 200kph and went straight into the ‘A’ pillar of my car.”

“Then I got a second hit, on the other side, and at this point I passed out – I was out cold for nearly 30 minutes.”

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - APRIL 20: Tom Kristensen of Denmark and Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline in action during the second test for the first round of the DTM 2007 German Touring Car Championship at the Hockenheimring on April 20, 2007 in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Kristensen started fifth on that fateful day in Hockenheim, before it all went wrong

Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

The unconscious Kristensen had to undergo a full extrication process from his destroyed Audi A4. Prémat got himself out of his Audi but then had to lie down at the side of the circuit.

The Dane was taken into Mannheim Hospital for overnight observation whilst Prémat went to Ludwigsburg for treatment to back injuries.

Kristensen was let out of hospital a couple of days later with only bruises to show for the impact, joking upon his release: “It’s always time to leave when you start to enjoy hospital food!”

Laughs aside, Kristensen told Motor Sport the severity of the crash had made him think long and hard about his future in racing. His son Oswald been born only the week before:

“It was a huge setback,” says the nine-time Le Mans winner, “I was out for two months and there were questions about whether I should come back to racing after that.

“It was a big impact, a long recovery from the after-effects, and it was mentally incredibly to come back in time for Le Mans in June. A lot of kind people were saying it was time for me to stop”.

Kristensen was chasing an eighth Le Mans title, and left it as late as possible to make his decision on whether to return to racing.

“The recovery was very tough and it wasn’t until the Monday morning of the week before Le Mans that I decided I would race.

“The team was supportive, the doctors cleared me to race, and it was the right thing for me to do.”

Perhaps predictably, Kristensen drove the 2007 Le Mans like he’d never been away. His No2 Audi was in fact leading by four laps when team-mate Rinaldo Cappello crashed out.

Undeterred, Kristensen would go on to more La Sarthe success, eventually bringing his tally of wins at the famous enduro to nine, a record which has still not been surpassed.

As the Le Mans legend puts it himself: “I’m very glad I didn’t [stop], because the next seven years brought so much.”

Tom Kristensen’s autobiography Mr Le Mans is published in March by Evro

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