Thursday, December 31, 2009
Kristensen the king of Le Mans
By Tom McKean ESPN.com
Tom Kristensen, center, celebrates with Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela in June 2002 after the teammates became the first trio to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans three consecutive years.
We have introduced you to Sebastien Bourdais, Sam Hornish Jr. and Jimmie Johnson as we roll out the nine candidates for ESPN.com's Driver of the Decade -- in alphabetical order -- over the next two weeks. Our panel of experts has voted for its top drivers. You will get your turn when we stage a SportsNation fan vote on Jan. 8.
The Driver of the Decade will be revealed on Jan. 11.
Meet candidate No. 4
Series: Sports car/endurance
Tom Kristensen highlights
Seven-time winner this decade of the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans (he has only 13 career starts)
Four-time winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring
Won the 2002 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta
Four race wins in DTM, the German touring car series
For those of you who may not be familiar with Tom Kristensen, here's all you need to know: Since 2000, he's been the most dominant sports car driver on the planet.
Kristensen is a seven-time winner this decade at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of three events that make up the Triple Crown of Motorsport. His seven wins in the 2000s alone are more than any driver's career victories at the event. To give you an idea, the first 24 Hours of Le Mans was in 1923, and more than 25 drivers have participated at least 15 times in the event during their careers. Well more than 100 drivers have competed at least 10 times, so it's quite the accomplishment by Kristensen in only 13 career starts.
Since 2000, Kristensen is also a four-time winner at the 12 Hours of Sebring, which kicks off the American Le Mans Series season.
Kristensen also won the 2002 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
The majority of his wins this decade came while driving for Audi, but Kristensen won the 24 Hours of Le Mans while driving for Bentley in 2003. He's also had success in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, the German touring car series: four wins (including the 2009 season opener) and finishes in the standings of fourth, third and third in his first three years of competition (2004 to 2006).
Meet the nine Driver of the Decade contenders, who are being revealed one at a time ...
• Monday: Sebastien Bourdais
• Tuesday: Sam Hornish Jr.
• Wednesday: Jimmie Johnson
• Thursday: Tom Kristensen
• Coming Friday: Sebastien Loeb Tom McKean is a studio researcher at ESPN.