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24 Hours of Le Mans: ‘records are made to be broken’, warns Kristensen | TV5MONDE

“Records are made to be broken, you should never consider that things are final”, assures AFP in an interview with Dane Tom Kristensen, holder of the record for victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, nine in 18 participations between 1997 and 2014.

QUESTION: Of all your victories, if you had to talk about the most beautiful, which one would you choose?

ANSWER: “I used to say the next one but now that I’m retired… I’ve had different types of victories. The first (1997, editor’s note) first – because without the first, the others would not have followed. 2001 then when it rained 19 hours a day and we won for Michele (Alboreto), who disappeared earlier that year. In 2004 we had so many problems but we finally got on the top step of the podium. I remember 2008 and the battle with the Peugeots who were the favourites. In the rain at times, we were always able to hang on and come back to finally win. My last victory in 2013 was also very intense… Sorry, I can’t name one in particular.”

Q: And your worst memory?

A: “That’s clear. In 1999. We had a four-lap lead when suddenly we had a problem. It was very hard to accept. It’s still my biggest nightmare, I felt humiliated. J we had won in 1997. In 1998, with BMW, we had given up prematurely because the car was not ready. But in 1999, we were ready, we had even won at Sebring just before. These 24 Hours of Le Mans were also the last millennium, there were a lot of constructors. For all these reasons, I really suffered from having missed the victory that we deserved (…) I might have won more victories, but from a other side, some that I won were very close, and it could have gone differently. That’s what maintains the fascination for this race.”

Q: In 2005, you scored your seventh victory at Le Mans, breaking legend Jacky Ickx’s record. Do you remember this moment?

A: “I think I showed my best driving that year. We weren’t the favourites. I drove for almost four hours, until the end of the race (at 4:00 p.m., editor’s note) , but I didn’t take anything for granted until the checkered flag. At the finish, everyone was talking to me about the record, but it was not until late in the evening that I listened to my answering machine on which I I had received many messages. One of them said: “Hello Tom, it’s five to four, and we’re watching you, it’s absolutely wonderful. I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on your incredible achievement of “having won Le Mans seven times+. It was Jacky Ickx. I broke his record, but he was the first to congratulate me. I think that’s when I started to realize and I cried.”

Q: Do you think your record will fall, too, one day?

A: “Records are made to be broken. Never take things for granted, and always push the boundaries. I just hope I’m still alive to see it. Then I’ll make sure I’m as encouraging as Jacky has been with me.”

Q: You retired almost ten years ago. Do you ever plan to get back behind the wheel?

A: “In my mind, I come back often, but in reality, certainly not. It was the right decision to stop when I was still performing. I finished on the podium in the last race of the world championship in endurance and I felt good. I had already announced my retirement, I’ve never regretted it. But I live the races, I comment on them, I watch them, I’m there too. I like being around the drivers. I like to hear the pit stops, I can easily project myself. I’ve done a lot of races, I’m incredibly grateful to my teams and my teammates, but it’s hard. I made a choice – and it’s the good one.”

Interview by Hélène DAUSCHY

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