The 24 Hours of Le Mans: A One on One with Tom Kristensen

Tom Khristensen

 

Becoming the most successful race-car driver in history is no easy feat. Danish racer Tom Kristensen is the only person on this planet to have won 24 Hours of Le Mans nine times, and the only six-time winner of the notable 12 Hours of Sebring. As a former FIA World Endurance Champion, it is clear Kristensen has solidified himself as a racing legend. We had to know more about the most notorious man behind the wheel. In this Haute Q&A, we explore Kristensen’s insight on 24 Hours of Le Mans and his relationship with Rolex.

HL: Do you have a favorite Rolex watch? Which one and why?

TK: My favorite watch would be any one of the Rolex Daytona chronographs. There is an understated elegance to the Rolex Daytona and it represents the qualities that drivers strive for—to be accurate, consistent and durable—values which I aspired to when I was racing. The Rolex Daytona is legendary and represents the ultimate award in motor sport.

HL: You’ve won nine Le Mans races! Was there one that stood out to you?

TK: It is difficult to say, but the races in 1997, 2001, 2008 and 2013 are the ones I can speak most about. One of my favorite moments was during the very early morning in 1997, when the engineer called me on the radio and said, “Schnellste Runde,” meaning lap record. When he said that, I knew I had reached a level that meant I could be successful and it gave me confidence to raise my game. We were only second, but we were pushing hard and getting closer. Hearing “lap record” at that time proved to me that I could be fast at Le Mans. That moment laid the foundations for success in that race and for future races at Le Mans.

HL: Of all your wins, which race was the closest?

TK: I’m not sure; probably when we won by almost 30 seconds.

HL: Why is the 24 Hours of Le Mans such a special race?

TK: It is the pinnacle of motor sport in terms of speed and distance, as well as endurance and time. If you think about how many situations, overtakes and breaking points you experience, you realize how many stories the car also has to tell when it crosses the finish line. Le Mans has such incredible history, adding to the magnitude of the race and making it one of the ultimate events in the motor sport calendar.

Cosmograph Daytona
Cosmograph Daytona

HL: How do you maintain focus over such a long period time?

TK: From the moment you arrive and from the build-up, you feel the enormity of the race and how unique Le Mans is. This makes you focus and concentrate even more and from that moment on, your adrenaline level never seems to dip. It is important to push the limits but never force them. It has to be on instinct and a result of your skill, determination and passion. The race can very easily bite you, which we have seen so often in previous years.

HL: What does the relationship between Le Mans and Rolex mean to you as a racer?

TK: Rolex is a partner of the most unique and prestigious motor sport events in the world. Rolex’s involvement in Le Mans has been very important and the winners’ Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watch has an illustrious history in the motor sport world. It is the ultimate watch for the ultimate motor sport drivers and events. Rolex provides Le Mans with the blue stamp and gives the fans and public something to aspire to, which is very important for the sport. Young fans will watch and dream of winning. They already have an eye on which watch they want to commemorate their biggest achievement with one day.

HL: How does time pass in those 24 hours?

TK: You are just living in the moment and everything happens in split seconds, so you have to be incredibly alert at all times. In one sense 24 hours is a long time, but in other ways time passes very quickly—in a flash. There is so much energy around each win and you are so focused on wanting to do well that you remember every detail.

HL: What is your earliest memory of Rolex?

TK: I bought my first Rolex watch in 2000. It was a Rolex Daytona and I had it engraved with my Le Mans win that year. There is a unique identity and subtlety to the brand and when you are part of the Rolex family, you really understand the values of understated perfection and elegance. It is the Rolex way, driven by a passion for innovation and perfection.

Le Mans
Le Mans

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