In conversation with Tom Kristensen, 9-time Le Mans winner
24th Dec 2017 7:00 am
What does a driver who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans nine times do after retirement? We speak to Kristensen about this and the shift to historic racing.
What is the biggest difference you have noticed in the shift from racing modern prototypes to now racing vintage cars?
Once you put your helmet on, you always want to do your best. But now I go to vintage motorsport events just to enjoy myself and I don’t feel I have to win. Of course, it is important to remain focused and concentrate when driving the cars, as they are treasured enormously by their owners and are often incredibly valuable – they are sometimes the best from that particular period.
I look forward to receiving an invitation to Goodwood Revival even more so now that I am retired. The quality of the cars and the level of grip they had were very different then, as were their aerodynamics – this meant you were sliding a lot and it was even more important to find a rhythm.
Also, I find driving a car for the first time is one of the greatest challenges in vintage motor racing – it is a very intense feeling and really allows you to get into the spirit of the event.
Do you ever feel like returning to racing contemporary cars, perhaps in a different form (i.e.) Rallycross?
I was very comfortable with my decision to retire; it was the right time for me and I felt completely at peace with my decision. I am fortunate to still be involved in the industry and I enjoy my role at Audi enormously. I am also a brand ambassador for Rolex and being Grand Marshal at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona was definitely a highlight, as I was participating in the ultimate gentleman’s 24-hour race at Le Mans.
Driving a variety of cars is a very special feeling and that only really happens at heritage motorsport events. For example, each of the five years I have been to Goodwood Revival, I have driven a different car in each class, which I’ve really enjoyed and find challenging.
What have been your highlights during the Monterey Classic Car Week so far?
The highlights for me have been seeing the enormous variety and depth of cars on show at the different events throughout the week. The amount of cars on the track at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is phenomenal. At Laguna Seca, I was particularly struck by the drivers’ laid-back approach to racing – it is all about celebrating the heritage of our sport, far more than the competition. It creates a lovely atmosphere, truly unique and far away from real competition.