Tom Kristensen, the most successful driver in the history of Le Mans, will compete at the 2013 Race Of Champions in Bangkok, Thailand
Kristensen took a record ninth victory at this year’s Le Mans 24-Hour race to cement his position as the greatest endurance racer of all time
The Dane joins F1 legend Michael Schumacher in the line-up for ROC 2013, to be held at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium on December 14-15
Tom Kristensen is a man who really likes records - indeed he collects them. For years many thought Jacky Ickx's total of six Le Mans victories would never be beaten but no one told that to Kristensen, who took over from the Belgian at the top of the all-time list with his seventh triumph in 2005. To rub it in he even managed the last six of those wins in a row from 2000 to 2005.
Glory hasn't come along quite so regularly since - and some were starting to believe Kristensen may have to settle for a final total of eight, which he reached five years ago. Not a chance. This year the Dane returned to the top of the podium for Audi in partnership with Allan McNish and Loic Duval to take the all-time record to nine, 50 percent more than Ickx.
But Kristensen's record collection is not limited to Le Mans. The same trio of drivers took victory last weekend at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas to extend their lead of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship while Kristensen also has a record six wins at the Sebring 12-Hour race.
Kristensen has an enviable roll of honour at the Race Of Champions too. When he returns to Bangkok for ROC 2013 on December 14-15 it will be his 13th consecutive appearance, the longest run of any current driver. Indeed he now has Stig Blomqvist's all-time mark of 15 appearances in his sights - and past form suggests it would surely be foolish to bet against that record being added to his ever-growing haul.
"Mr Le Mans" hardly comes to ROC to make up the numbers either. For the past two years he has showed the young chargers a thing or two by reaching the individual Grand Final only to fall to French opposition: first world rally ace Sébastien Ogier then F1 star Romain Grosjean. Somehow the overall Champion of Champions title continues to elude him but no one doubts that rare gap in his CV is one he is only too keen to fill - and one of the reasons he keeps coming back for more.
Kristensen says: “I do give everything to win and I’m getting closer every year! The challenge is to jump into different cars and Romain deserved to win in 2012. But even though I’m a bit older, to reach the final and race the youngsters is still a lot of fun. I’m still young too, of course, so maybe one day I’ll get the chance to win it… preferably in December.”"
As a Race Of Champions veteran, the 46-year-old is used to freezing conditions for its traditional end-of-year date. ROC's previous trip out of Europe didn't affect that as Beijing's Olympic Stadium even saw snow. But Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium made a welcome, if sweltering change to the customary ROC conditions at its 2012 debut.
"Last year was the warmest ROC I have competed in so we know what to expect in Bangkok," smiles Kristensen. "The Race Of Champions is a great way to end the season: always fun with great camaraderie among all the drivers from different types of motor sport. That is why I come back every year..."
The Race Of Champions brings together stars from all over the world: seven-time F1 world champion Michael Schumacher is already signed up and the rest of this year’s line-up will be announced in the run-up to December’s event. Along with Kristensen’s haul from Le Mans, the 2012 field featured a total of 10 F1 world championships from Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, seven MotoGP titles via Jorge Lorenzo and Mick Doohan plus greats from touring cars (Andy Priaulx), IndyCar (Ryan Hunter-Reay), V8 Supercars (Jamie Whincup) and more.
Race organiser Fredrik Johnsson said: “It’s great to have Tom back in our line-up yet again. His record ninth victory at this year’s Le Mans 24-Hour race shows his appetite for success is as strong as ever. But everyone at ROC knew that already after seeing his determined runs to the last two finals. He’s a legend in his field and it would not surprise me to see him come out on top at ROC too. We hope to see a big crowd in Bangkok savouring the chance to watch Tom take on all the other greats.”
Ticket details will be released shortly. Sign up for all the latest updates here at www.raceofchampions.com, Race Of Champions on Facebook and @raceofchampions and #BangROC on Twitter.