Audi Sport “factory” ace Tom Kristensen was inducted in to the highly-respected British Motorsport magazine’s “Hall of Fame” last night (25 February).
The “Great Dane” who has scored six of his record eight Le Mans 24 Hour race victories driving an Audi sportscar, received the accolade at the Covent Garden’s historic Royal Opera House in London.
“Mr Le Mans”, victorious for Audi at Le Sarthe in 2000-‘02/2004-‘05 (all Audi R8) and 2008 (Audi R10 TDI), was fittingly presented with his award by long-time co-drivers Allan McNish (Scotland) and Dindo Capello (It), the latter having now retired from sports-prototype racing.
In addition to Kristensen, McNish and Capello, Oliver Jarvis (Cambridge), was also present at the annual event that has quickly become established on motor racing’s social calendar.
Kristensen commented: “It’s a great honour for me to receive this prestigious award from a magazine that is known around the world. Sportscar endurance racing is a ‘team’ sport and I have been very fortunate to drive for the very best teams and to share a car with fantastic co-drivers and so in this respect, this award is for them just as much as me.
“I’ve had fantastic times with these two drivers here tonight, Allan and Dindo, both on and off the track. Of course Audi Sport Team Joest has given us the car, engineers, technicians and strategy, everything that has combined to enable us to achieve our success.
“It would be remiss of me not to mention my father, Carl Erik, who gave me the encouragement and advice at the beginning of my career. I owe him, and of course my lovely family, absolutely everything.
“Many other people have filled me with passion and motivated me in this great sport throughout my career. From karting to my days with Audi including Formula Three and in Japan with Formula 3000. I have truly been blessed with working with the very best.”
With eight Le Mans victories to his name, plus four other top-three Le Mans podium finishes, Kristensen is long since a legend. No other driver has won the French classic, staged since 1923, so often.
He also heads the all-time winners’ list for the Sebring 12 Hours and bids for a seventh victory with Dumfries-born McNish and Lucas di Grassi (Brazil) in Florida next month (16 March).
McNish said: “Many things can be said about Tom. Look at his incredible record throughout his career, not just in sportscars. The variety of cars he has driven, the races he has won. He’s a very ‘deep’, agile driver with amazing adaptability.
“He is incredibly intense, focused and passionate at the track and still has the desire, even at this stage of his career after all that he has won and all that he has been involved in.
“Away from the track he is very funny and has the ability to balance work life with enjoying a fantastic family life with his lovely family.
“But the record books say it all – especially when on the subject of Le Mans. That is not luck, that is incredible judgment.”
Leena Gade (London), Howden Haynes (Towcester, Northants) and Kyle Wilson-Clarke (Barnes, London), who have amassed five top-three podiums at Le Mans – including four wins – with Audi Sport in the role as a No1 Engineer, were also present at the event supported by Audi UK.
The eight founding members of the Motorsport Hall of Fame are Tazio Nuvolari, Enzo Ferrari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
Sportscar fans in Britain will get the opportunity to see Kristensen in race action when he contests the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone on 14 April.
Kristensen will be joined by McNish and Loïc Duval (F) in the Six Hour race while a second Audi Sport Team Joest entered hybrid-diesel Audi R18 e-tron quattro of defending WEC champions Marcel Fässler (CH), André Lotterer (D) and Benoît Tréluyer (F) bid for a second consecutive Silverstone victory.
Meanwhile “TK” gets an opportunity to add to his record Le Mans victory tally and record Audi’s 12th win in June.