Publisher: Evro Publishing Limited (May 18, 2021)
Author: Tom Kristensen & Dan Philipsen
Hardcover 432 pages
Size: 7.25 x 1.77 x 9.88 inches
Price: $29.99 (USA)
Thank goodness Tom Kristensen has at last released his book, aptly titled Mr. Le Mans, in English language. It is a fitting title of course, but one I know he wrestled with, not being comfortable with the moniker. The new version has been expanded from the original Danish publication with the addition of much more on – oddly enough – motorsport! Not being fluent in Danish, I am unable to read the original text, but apparently this one has much more for those of us outside of his homeland. A good thing too.
The book starts with his life threatening 2007 DTM crash in what we later find out, was much more than just a dark moment in his stellar career. Tom talks openly and poignantly about how it affected his world in a manner unlike most other drivers’ stories.
It is at once an autobiography and a biography, being co-written with his friend Dan Philipsen. It is cleverly laid out and the story flows from Tom’s accounts to those of Dan’s in a way that makes the book easy and very enjoyable to read.
Besides the obvious tales of his ascension through the ranks, we learn of how he toiled and sacrificed just to be able to drive his kart at his closest track – far from his home – when he was a kid; the doubts that almost made him give up altogether until his mentor at the track gave him help and direction, and how he battled with Mika Hakkinnen in a “bitsa” kart.
We also learn about the constant string of disappointments in F3 due to lack a of funding and the reasons why his huge talent was often not enough, despite beating many top names who found their way into F1 – Tom’s ultimate goal. That’s not to say Tom didn’t have his fair share of glory…his constant hard work and dedication shone through. He is proud that he never paid for a seat, and although the money certainly would have helped him, his incredible work ethic and natural talent got him noticed where, ultimately, it mattered the most. And we got to see a nine time Le Mans champion because of it.
As you immerse yourself in the read, you will follow along in a history lesson with Tom as he takes us to Japan, where he lived for many years, in his quest to make it to F1. Then we learn about the turmoil and politics back home that seemed to be against the kid from Hobro, and how the press tried to manipulate stories. All the while of course, these constant battles only strengthened his resolve to succeed.
There are plenty of fun tales which will make you laugh out loud as you get some insight into Tom’s wit and humor. The Morris Marina story is one, but my favorite centers around his first Le Mans and the tale of the brake pedal. Comedic genius perhaps, but it goes a long way to show how his unique style endeared him to all who worked with him (if not all who raced against him!) and how he gained trust and respect by being so involved and approachable. This extended not only to his team, but also to fans and media, where he made many more friends.
Tom’s strength of character and unwavering belief in himself is what carried him through the many times where most would have gone back home and taken up a day job. But TK wasn’t about to listen to his concerned mother. He forged ahead. FORWARD! You’ll come to understand the very personal meaning of this word in the Kristensen family.
You will also learn what Tom really likes about Le Mans. Funnily enough though, the actual prose in reference to his 18 participations and famous nine wins, is much less than you’d think. Instead you get inside his brain and learn a lot more than what’s been written thousands of times over already. The meaning of the “high five” at Audi Sport is much more than a greeting or gesture. How about Tom’s nine rules for success? I’d never heard these anywhere before, plus the psyche and personal shortcomings of some of his closest rivals are also spelled out in Tom’s forthright and candid way.
Reading this book – more than anything – I was surprised and surprisingly moved by his total openness about his relationships with his family. Life and death are discussed deeply and it’s powerful stuff. He talks at once about his total confidence in himself, but also about his own self-doubts, especially as it pertained to his return to racing in 2007, as the book takes up where the prologue left off. The section about his mother is so well written and so moving, that you can almost live the author’s thoughts. It made me cry. It takes a good author to paint a picture that vivid.
You can feel through the pages how Tom loves to be in control, and his strive for perfectionism in all aspects of his life including his language. So eager was Tom to be correct, that he once had a journalist help him with his English phraseology when he was younger. This a little ironic, as there are several typo’s in the book stemming from its translation from Danish. I actually found them endearing as they added character on the journey through the book. This aspect will drive Tom crazy. Funnily enough though, I couldn’t fail to notice that just about all of the errors occurred on the pages not written by Tom!
If you are looking for a book packed with stats and results, you’ll have to search out Tom’s previous books, “We are the Champions!” or “The Book”. This one is a memoir packed with feelings and remembrances and goes way deeper than most books of this genre.
Naturally the book closes with Tom’s candid discussion about his retirement and his post professional-driving career. It goes to show some modesty that he fails to mention one of his biggest accolades: a knighthood from the Queen of Denmark, but it does not seem to miss much else as he flourishes in his new life full of fresh beginnings and exciting new roles.
If you are looking for a book that reads like a personal day spent with the humble man from a small town who became one of the biggest stars in global motorsport – all the while being the perfect politician and ambassador, get comfy, have a cup of coffee with Tom and let this beautiful book wash over you.
Videre as Mr Le Mans would say.