Kristensen looks back on his Sebring success
Tom Kristensen simply is the most decorated sports car driver of his generation. Along with a record eight overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Great Dane is a four-time winner at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the first coming in the first race of the American Le Mans Series in 1999. With this year’s Sebring 12 Hours serving as the Series’ 100th all-time event, Kristensen gives his thoughts on what makes Sebring and the Series special.
“The good thing about Sebring is it has stayed the same for so many years. Anyone in motor racing knows about this race and knows that that’s when the season kicks off. It’s tough on the cars, the drivers and the pit crew, so preparing for this race is something everyone looks forward to. The race has so much tradition and the weather is good, especially for us Europeans, to come here and have a race in the same climate close to what we will be at Le Mans in terms of temperatures. But basically over the years how it has evolved means it is definitely a weekend I want to be part of. It’s a great event, great race, great fans and obviously, this week with the Irish day (St Patrick's Day) and spring break, it creates a really great atmosphere.
“Of course, a lot of things have happened on the cars; we do lap times that are 10 times faster than in those days. But still, the race track is the same. Sebring is a very, very old race track still. In a way, it’s a love-hate relationship about the actual race track because some corners are really great and others are a pain for the driver, especially the bumps and the changes of grip level through corners. But at the end of the day, it’s a challenge, and we all laugh about it and laugh about the experience we have over the years on this course.
Winning the first Series race at Sebring in 1999
“I look at pictures and I see there is quite a big difference. I was this curly haired boy; I was relatively young coming here with BMW Schnitzer in 1999. We were close to making the decision to go or not go because we were not sure if we were completely ready. But we did, and we won the race. This was absolutely a great time! Over the years, I think I have matured. I’ve been a part of some fantastic teams, particularly with Audi and the Joest crew. And now we are with a new baby, the new R15 TDI, which Ingolstadt has put a lot of effort and energy into. So far, we are very happy with the speed at this very, very early stage of the car.”
“Especially with a new car, the adrenaline is a little bit higher. You feel a little bit more of the positive pressure, because there’s so much input to this car but you haven't got the output back. When you come here, you have everything - the temperature, wheel loads, cornering speeds, the temperature of the brakes - Sebring is very, very hard. When you get through 12 hours here, you start to look at making the next step in terms of speed.”