Tom’s Top Ten Tips
Who better to ask for Le Mans advice than Tom Kristensen?
Le Mans Legend Tom Kristensen took nine overall victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so who better to ask for tips to the world-famous race than the race’s most successful driver, especially as he’s just been appointed as the ambassador for the centenary event?
Arrive in a good time
Make sure you get the best place to stay at the circuit. There are a lot of campsites so choose wisely. You want to be able to stay under a couple of trees for the shade and have some lovely grass, especially if you have a tent.
Always carry earplugs
May sure you always have earplugs, at least a spare pair in your pocket as it gets pretty noisy, especially near the garages or in the car!
Plan your days
Make sure you have a plan and know how to get to the different places around the circuit as there’s a lot you can do here and its great to get a different view of the racing.
Take in the Key Moments
Make sure you see the start! Other key moments to take in include catching the cars coming into Indianapolis – I recommend Saturday evening with the sun behind you as a good time for this as the drivers will have the sun in their eyes so it makes it a challenge to get the corner right. This means they will struggle to find the exact turn-in point, so head down there sometime between 7 and 10 at night to see some action.
Feel the Speed
It’s great to see the cars at speed at night and I’d recommend around Mulsanne to get this. You don't need to be that close to them to feel the speed, you can watch them through the trees and it's a beautiful sight.
It's all in the preparation….or is it?
For my first race here 25 years ago I was thrown into it just four days before the race. It was a very different place and I only had 17 timed laps before I was in the race. It’s a very different amount of practice now and the track is different too. The circuit was narrower, there were no floodlights, we didn’t have simulators to practice on in advance, there was no run-off – it was a different challenge to today in so many ways.
Let the circuit come to you
It's always good to let the circuit come to you. Of course, as a driver you will be pushing things, but only slight mistakes can create big setbacks. So, the trick is to make the circuit come to you. And that should then give you the confidence that when you're driving into the night that you can go out and hit the targets and meaning in terms of braking points, terms of turning in that you will be not far from the limit when you leave the pit lane.
Be aggressive at night, but not too aggressive
At night, you need to be aggressive into the corners as the natural tendency is not to push too hard. Make sure that you never overdo it, of course, but it is a really big help to be aggressive. The risk you take during the night is being too calm and losing the grip of the tyres and the heat in the brakes which you need in order to deal with the cooler temperatures. When you are aggressive, it goes well and it just gives you good confidence. It’s always very important that you have good confidence here.
One for all and all for one
Camaraderie with your team-mates and all of the team is very important. Here you're all in it together. If one of the crew is starting to freeze or lose focus, warm him. It's really, really important because of course it's the person who was freezing who can make a small slight mistake can be something which then creates something much bigger. It's always the small things that make an issue. It's always that little tiny bit, which unfortunately, means you don't win.
If you get some sleep, get it early
For my first years here I never slept, I just couldn't sleep. But the latter years I definitely slept for one or two times. I normally always drive at night so after the night stint definitely was time for a snooze and sometimes I could get a little bit in before the night stint too, as well in my second time in the car, but in total it would never be more than three hours.
If you can have a little nap and a little sleep, then you should try to rest as soon as you get out of the car. Just speak to the mechanics, speak to engineers, take a shower, have a little bit of massage if you need it, have a little food and then try to try to rest in the first hours of you time out of the car.
Be ready to rumble at any time
Make sure that you are awake and ready well before your stint in the car is due to start. Sit alert and ready at least an hour before you would be planned to get in the car, because the worst nightmare is that the weather changes or there are some issues with a slow puncture and you need to take a new tyres, then the crew will always do a driver change. I've done that with short notice a few times and it leaves you on the back foot. You're coming out back into the intensity of the race and it’s very easy to make a mistake as your full focus is not there. It's hard on your mental stress.