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Book Review: 'Mr Le Mans' Tom Kristensen

A nine times Le Mans winner, yet how much do we really know about the man? In truth, before the release of this book, not too much. Always polite, PR savvy, and guarded in his comments, he chose to be the consummate professional. But having completed his thirty plus year racing career in 2014, he has now chosen this as the time to tell some of the stories behind the scenes, opening up to award winning co-writer Dan Philipsen and providing some of the answers fans have craved for.

Covering the whole of his career, from karting in Scandinavia, moving to cars and winning the 1991 Formula 3 title in Germany, before moving to Japan, along with other European drivers following a lack of sponsorship deals in Europe, and continuing his success with the 1993 Formula 3 title there. That opened up various opportunities for competitive drives in both open seater and GT championships, still in Japan, before moving back to Europe and competing at the second level of FIA open wheel racing. After being placed 6th in the championship in 1996 and 1997, opportunities to drive in Formula 1 didn’t come to fruition despite tests for several teams, but a chance drive at Le Mans, filling in for an injured driver, would lead to what would become a glorious career in sportscars, winning the great race at his first attempt with the private Joest team, and impressing everyone with his night time driving against strong factory opposition. This would ultimately lead to his being linked to Audi Sport, fifteen seasons of driving at the top level of sportscar and DTM racing, and his reputation being lifted to the highest level.

But this did include the biggest accident in his career, driving an Audi DTM car in 2007, when he was knocked unconscious for 30 minutes, had to be extracted and transferred to hospital for two days, and afterwards left him questioning his willingness to race again, especially with a growing family commitment. But he chose to recover and return, gaining two more firsts and four other podium places at Le Mans, and winning the 2013 World Sportscar Drivers title, along with Allan McNish and Loic Duval.

This book was originally issued in his native Denmark, where it became “Sports Book of the Year”, but this English version differs as it also includes contributions from several world respected journalists to provide a further insight at different points of his career.

Much of the book covers and exudes his wish for perfection in his ability, as without it he might not have been so compulsively driven and a perfectionist. But there is no hint of some of the deep battles that must have happened within the teams and organisations, where he was spurring those around him to match him.

Could this book have gone further into his personal character? Surely yes, but then that is Tom Kristensen, still ever the professional. Never burning bridges, only revealing what is needed without alienating those around him. He did his talking in the car, so we should be pleased that these chapters have been written for us to enjoy, and to reflect on a career well driven.

My thanks to Evro Publishing for the review copy.

MR LE MANS TOM KRISTENSEN By Tom Kristensen with Dan Philipsen is published by Evro and out now in hardback, priced £40

Author: Tom Kristensen, with Dan Philipsen

Publisher: Evro Publishing

Published: March 2021

Pages: 432

Price: £40.00

ISBN: 978-87-972603-0-2

Illustrations: 125

Format: Hardback


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