Le Mans 2013: Ranking Tom Kristensen's Best First-Place Finishes

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIIJune 23, 2013

LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 23:  (L-R) Allan McNish of Great Britain, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Tom Kristensen of Denmark and Loic Duval of France celebrate as Audi Team Sport e-tron quattro wins the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 23, 2013 in Le Mans, France.  (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Tom Kristensen has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans more times than anyone else in the history of the race, but where does his 2013 victory stack up amongst his other top finishes?

Kristensen, along with Allan McNish and Loic Duval, completed 348 laps at the 90th running of 24 Hours of Le Man, which were the most by any other team. The victory gave Kristensen his ninth career win, which is three more than any other driver.

It was also the 12th win in 14 years for Audi, according to the official Twitter account of Audi:

The driver dedicated the win to Allan Simonsen, who lost his life during the race, according to the Associated Press (h/t USA Today): "This one is for Allan Simonsen. A fantastic driver. This is for him."

While the race was certainly one of the most emotional ones of all time, Kristensen and his team did a great job of staying composed. If it weren’t for strong determination and endurance, there’s no way Audi Sports Team Joest would’ve gotten another crown with Kristensen’s name on it.

Kristensen is definitely happy to have come out on top for the ninth time in his career, but compared to previous years, he didn’t complete nearly as many laps as he’s accustomed to when winning. In fact, the 348 laps he completed in 2013 were the second fewest ever when winning at 24 Hours of Le Mans for him.

That being said, the driver’s 2013 victory ranks toward the bottom of his best 24 Hours of Le Mans wins. Which of Kristensen’s victories have been the most impressive? Let’s take a look at the top three of his career.

3. 1997 (Joest Racing): 361 Laps Completed

Kristensen had never taken part at the 24 Hours of Le Mans before in his career but was ready to give the endurance a shot in 1997. Kristensen proved any doubters wrong, as he and Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson cruised to victory. The trio completed 361 laps, which was impressive for a rookie team.

But it wasn’t just that Kristensen and his teammates completed more laps than any other team—it was the margin of victory that impressed many. The next team in the same class at Kristensen’s only had 336 laps throughout the race, meaning Joest Racing picked up a win by 25 laps.

Kristensen seemed to take a liking to the race, as he’s now competed at 24 Hours of Le Mans every chance he’s gotten. I’m sure he can still recall every maneuver he made throughout the race, and that trophy definitely has a special spot on his mantle at his home.

2. 2004 (Audi Sport Japan Team Goh): 379 Laps Completed

Kristensen entered the 2004 edition of 24 Hours of Le Mans with four straight victories but was now with a new team. He was racing with Audi Sport Japan Team Goh after one year with Team Bentley. It didn’t appear that he had much trouble making the transition.

Kristensen, along with Rinaldo Capello and Seiji Ara, completed 379 laps, which was enough to take his fifth consecutive victory at the race. He his teammates were just one of four teams to finish the race with at least 350 laps. The win also put Kristensen into a first-place tie with Jacky Ickx for the most wins of all-time with six.

While Kristensen had always been known as one of the top drivers even to compete at 24 Hours at Le Mans, the victory really secured his spot in history. Many were waiting to see if he could tie Ickx’s record, and it only took him eight total tries to do it—failing to finish in 1998 and 1999. He would break the record the next year.

1. 2008 (Audi Sport North America): 381 Laps Completed

Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish had come up short twice in a row since teaming up. In 2006, the trio finished in third place. The next year, they didn’t even get to finish the race. But their luck would turn itself around in 2008, when they took the rest of the field by storm.

Audi Sport North American completed 381 laps. At the time, it was the most laps Kristensen had every completed at 24 Hours of Le Mans, whether in a win or a loss. He would eventually top that mark in 2010, completing 394 laps and finishing in third place with Capello and McNish on his team.

What’s impressive about the victory is that the race was run in poor conditions. Mother Nature made her presence known on the track throughout the entire duration of the race. Even still, Kristensen and his teammates were able to avoid an accident and powered through the 381 laps. The win gave Kristensen his eighth win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.


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