14 June 2024 - Last updated 17 June 2024

Record nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans champion and Eurosport motorsport expert Tom Kristensen was speaking ahead of the 2024 edition of the most iconic race in motorsport.

What does it take to win 24 Hours of Le Mans?
You need to be in love with motorsport. You need to love what you do and want to make your parents proud. You need to do well for your mechanics, be strong, avoid mistakes, and strive to win. Having a reliable car is crucial, so working on the details is essential. You need good chemistry with your teammates, respect each other, and take responsibility with your mechanics. It's very stressful to drive at an average speed of 220 kilometers per hour for 24 hours, including pit stops. Passion, determination, and a fear of making mistakes are key. You need to look at mistakes but avoid making them.

Do you ever feel the itch to go back and race all over again?
Yes, for sure. I miss it. It's been 10 years since I retired from Le Mans, but you have to retire while you're still doing well. I don't regret my decision at all. Now, I get the most passion from commentating on races. Last night, during qualifying and free practice, I could see myself jumping into one of the cars, just for my own pleasure. I don't need to take part in the whole preparation anymore. I envy the racing, but I'm glad to watch the talents and great drivers coming in. Le Mans is in a fantastic period, with many brands competing for the outright victory. If we can get a Dane on top of the podium again, it would make me very happy.

What's your opinion on the GT3 class replacing the old GTEs?
The LMGT3 class in the WEC is now pro-am, meaning there is a bronze driver in all cars, which attracts manufacturers. The cars are less sophisticated than the GTEs, using full ABS and other aids. The class gives good racing because of the mix of experience levels among drivers. The cars are balanced for performance, making any mistake more costly and creating a more competitive field.

This is the fourth year of the hypercar class. Do you think it has lived up to the hype?
Yes, it certainly has. The races in the WEC have attracted a lot of spectators, with 80,000 at Spa and 70,000 at Imola. The hypercar class has brought in many manufacturers and created competitive racing. This year, we have even more manufacturers than last year, making it a fantastic period for Le Mans. However, there will always be some disappointments and challenges, but overall, the hypercar class has been very successful.

What makes Le Mans so special?
The night and the spirit, the history and heritage of the race. Driving at night is a unique experience. You need to focus entirely, and the atmosphere is incredible. The combination of speed, endurance, and the challenges of the race make it truly special.

Which victory was the most memorable for you in Le Mans?
I would say 2004 because it's 20 years ago, and my son reminded me of that. He actually made an Instagram post for me this morning. That's when I drove with a one-car team, a private team from Japan, Team Goh. Japan has meant so much for my career because they welcomed me even many years before that when I did Formula 3, and I lived in Japan for 5 years. Later, to drive in a private Audi R8 with a Japanese team, with a one-car team, and there were a lot of Audi teams along the way. Winning there with Seiji Ara, the Japanese driver, and Rinaldo Capello was special.

Some people mentioned that in terms of involvement with the team, with the mechanical engineers, and sometimes we had to change a little bit. I was very much involved as it was a private organization building a team. So today, I would say that one. Other times, I would say my first victory with Joest Racing. Other times, I would speak to you, good journalists, about 2008 with Peugeot because we had no chance. We were 3.2 seconds behind in qualifying, which, as you know, is light years. But with five times doing rain and not rain, we were able to come out on top.

What do you think about the future of Le Mans with the changes in the auto industry?
At the moment, you are speaking about a new golden era. Le Mans will always survive with its history and heritage. Le Mans is 100 years old. This is the 101st year since the first race was held. I believe it's the 92nd race due to breaks for wars. Only something as significant as war can stop it because people need motorsport, people need the passion, and it is the greatest race. Le Mans will always survive with the technical solutions leading the way for car manufacturers. Of course, there's pressure from the political world because everyone, even racing drivers, wants to make the world a better place in all areas, not only environmentally but also in other aspects. 

The 24 Hours of Le Mans sees fans supporting different manufacturers like British Aston Martin, Italian Lamborghini, and Toyota from Japan. They all speak nicely about each other. It's really the best community of fans compared to some other sports where it becomes more aggressive. I'm very proud of my sport. I have only missed one Le Mans since I retired, and that was during the pandemic. Other times, I still come back even though it's already a few years since I stopped racing myself.


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